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No. 1 Oklahoma Set to Defend National Crown

The Sooners take on three top 10 opponents on Thursday in the national semifinals in Fort Worth.

By OU Media Relations

When the No. 1 Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team takes the competition floor this week at the NCAA Championships inside Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, it will be OU's 22nd appearance at the national event. The No. 1 overall seed will compete in Thursday’s Semifinal II with No. 4 UCLA, No. 5 Utah and No. 9 Kentucky at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2. The Sooners have faced each of those three teams once this season.

“What an incredible ride 2023 has been for OU,” head coach K.J. Kindler said. “The strength of schedule our team faced during the regular season was impactful as we began our postseason push. Our team fought through a rough start in the regional final and showed how gritty and determined they can be. 

"I cannot say enough about the mental toughness and assertiveness they showed in those moments. Pure passion and exceptional execution when they needed it most. We are honored to have the opportunity to represent Sooner Nation in the semifinals in Fort Worth.”

Competing on the opposite side of the bracket for a shot to advance to the Four on the Floor will be No. 2 Florida, No. 6 LSU, No. 7 California and No. 14 Denver in Semifinal I on Thursday at 2 p.m. CT. The top two teams from each session will advance to Saturday's final at 3 p.m. CT on ABC.

The all-around and individual event champions will also be determined during Thursday's semifinals.

K.J. Kindler

K.J. Kindler

National TV Coverage

For the third consecutive season, the ESPN family of networks continues to raise the bar in its collegiate gymnastics coverage, with the semifinals airing on Thursday at 2 and 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2, and the championship final live on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT on ABC.

Bart Conner (play-by-play), Kathy Johnson Clarke (analyst) and Samantha Peszek (reporter) will announce all three sessions. For the first time, a live ABC pre-show ahead of Saturday's Four on the Floor final will air at 2:30 p.m. CT. Former Olympic gymnast John Roethlisberger will serve as the host.

Along with the main broadcast for the NCAA Championships, ESPN will also provide individual apparatus streams on ESPN+ for both the semifinals and Four on the Floor. Kennedy Baker (vault), Bridget Sloan (bars), Ashley Miles Greig (beam) and Roethlisberger (floor) will commentate the streams. In addition, a quad box/all-around stream will allow fans to view all four events at once.

The Sooners were already featured five times (including four times in the regular season) on ESPN networks in 2023, including their home opener against No. 5 Utah on Jan. 22 on ESPN and twice on ESPN 2 (at then-No. 13 LSU [now No. 6] on Jan. 16 and vs. No. 2 Florida on March 3).

Rotation Order

The rotation order for the national semifinals was determined by blind draw prior to the selections. The Sooners will compete in the following order: bars, beam, floor and vault. This is the same rotation OU had in the NCAA Norman Regional final, where it battled back from third place halfway through the meet to win its 15th NCAA Regional title.

Competing in Olympic order and starting on vault will be No. 9 Kentucky, while No. 4 UCLA begins on beam and No. 5 Utah on floor. Rotating with the Sooners as an individual all-around competitor will be Michigan's Abby Heiskell. With the changes to the postseason made in 2019 and reducing the number of teams to four, there are no longer byes during competition.

NCAA Championship History

The Sooners won their fifth NCAA team title last season thanks to a comeback for the ages. In fourth place after its opening floor rotation, OU rallied to post a 0.1125 win over runner-up Florida and clinched the meet on beam anchor Ragan Smith's 9.9625. Utah finished in third place and Auburn in fourth. One of just seven programs to ever win an NCAA team title, OU won its first championship in 2014 (shared with Florida) and added others in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2022.

This is OU's 22nd NCAA Championships appearance in program history and fourth in the new eight-team format that debuted in 2019. The Sooners are one of three programs from the 2022 NCAA Championships to return in 2023, joining No. 2 Florida and No. 3 Utah from last season. OU and Utah are the only two programs to advance to the NCAA Championships every season since 2004. This marks the third straight year for the Sooners to face Utah in semifinals action.

The Big 12 Conference will make up 25 percent of the NCAA Championships field in Fort Worth, represented by top-ranked Oklahoma and No. 14 Denver. The SEC (No. 2 Florida, No. 6 LSU and No. 9 Kentucky) and Pac-12 (No. 4 UCLA, No. 5 Utah and No. 7 California) each represent 37.5 percent of the field.

OU's Individual National Champions

In addition to determining the squads competing in the Four on the Floor, Thursday's semifinals will serve to crown individual national champions. Scores will be combined from both sessions to determine the winners. OU has had six gymnasts combine for 17 individual NCAA titles. Kelly Garrison (1987, 1988) won all-around honors twice and claimed bars and beam titles as OU’s first ever individual national champion.

Taylor Spears broke a 26-year drought to claim the beam title in 2014 while Nicole Lehrmann earned her first championship on bars in 2017. Brenna Dowell earned titles on vault in 2018 and floor in 2019. Maggie Nichols ended her career as the all-time leader with six individual NCAA championships. She was a back-to back all-around winner (2018, 2019), back-to-back bars champion (2017, 2018) and earned titles on floor (2018) and vault (2019). OU's last individual champion was Anastasia Webb, who earned three titles in 2021, bringing home the all-around, vault and floor crowns in her senior season.

Postseason Success

Postseason has become a strength of the Sooners under 17th-year head coach K.J. Kindler. Since 2010, Oklahoma has captured a conference and NCAA regional championship in the same season 11 times (2010, 2012, 2013-19, 2022 and 2023). OU claimed the 2023 Big 12 Championship with the highest score in league championship history before earning its 13th straight regional crown.

The Sooners have advanced to the NCAA Championships 22 times in program history, including every season dating back to 2004. OU has never missed NCAA competition under Kindler’s leadership. Going back to (and including) 2016, the Sooners have placed in the top two every year with national titles in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2022. Since 2013, the Sooners are the only program in the nation to advance to the finals each year.

Regional Rewind 

The Sooners rallied in the final two rotations of the NCAA Norman Regional two weeks ago to secure their spot at nationals. It was OU's 13th straight regional title and 15th overall as it posted a 198.050 to finish ahead of second-place Kentucky's 197.850. The Wildcats also advanced and will join the Sooners in Fort Worth on Thursday night.

The Sooners swung strong on bars with the program's highest score in regional competition (49.675), but dropped to third after a pair of falls on beam. Trailing both No. 9 Kentucky and No. 16 Ohio State heading into the third rotation, OU earned another regional program best with a 49.675 on floor, registering six scores of 9.900 or higher on the event. The Sooners then notched their second-best regional score on vault (49.625), led by junior Katherine LeVasseur's fourth career perfect 10 and third this season.

During the second round of the Norman regional, sophomore Jordan Bowers and senior Ragan Smith each registered a perfect 10 to win the bars and beam titles, respectively. Bowers became the first Sooner to earn a perfect score on bars at an NCAA regional since Webb in 2021, while Smith was the first to earn a 10.0 on beam in regional competition since Nichols in 2018. The regional titles marked the fourth for Bowers and first for Smith. Super senior Olivia Trautman earned her third career NCAA regional title and first on vault with a 9.950.

All-American Sooners

Six Sooners combined to secure 10 regular season All-America honors from the Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association (WCGA). Senior Ragan Smith, juniors Audrey Davis and Katherine LeVasseur, sophomores Jordan Bowers and Danielle Sievers, and freshman Faith Torrez all received recognition from the association.

Bowers led OU with five regular season honors, earning a spot for all four events (first team on beam and floor, second team on vault and bars) and in the all-around (first team). She joined Nichols (2017 and '18) as the only Sooners in program history to garner five All-America honors during a regular season.

LeVasseur and Sievers joined Bowers as All-Americans on vault with first-team honors. The 2023 Big 12 Event Specialist of the Year, LeVasseur earned her second straight regular season All-America honor on vault and third overall, while Sievers earned her first regular season All-America recognition.

For the third consecutive season, Davis earned first-team honors on bars, marking her fourth regular season All-America honor overall. Smith, the No. 5-ranked gymnast on beam (No. 1 in the Big 12), picked up regular season first-team honors on the event for the second consecutive year. Torrez, the 2023 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, earned her first All-America honor with first-team recognition on floor.

Perfect 10s

Oklahoma has registered nine perfect 10s this season by four different gymnasts on all four events, including three with multiple perfect 10s this season — Smith, Bowers and LeVasseur. Smith's 10s came Jan. 29 on beam in the conference opener at then-No. 9 Denver, March 18 at the Big 12 Championship and March 30 in the second round of the NCAA Norman Regional. Smith's five career perfect 10s (all on beam) are tied for second most in program history with Trautman, Haley Scaman and Webb.

LeVasseur is sixth in program history for career perfect 10s with four total (all on vault). Her three 10.0s this season came Feb. 24 against West Virginia, March 12 vs. No. 14 Arizona State and April 1 during the NCAA Norman Regional final. LeVasseur became the first Sooner to earn a perfect 10 on vault in NCAA regional competition since Trautman in 2021.

Bowers is ranked seventh in program history with three career perfect 10s (tied with  Dowell and Lehrmann). Bowers earned her 10s on floor (Feb. 24) and bars (March 30) this season. She posted OU's first perfect score on bars since Webb on April 2, 2021 (NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional second round) and first on floor since Trautman on Feb. 15, 2019 (Perfect 10 Challenge).

Following Bowers and LeVasseur, Trautman was perfect on vault as OU won against No. 2 Florida on March 3. The 10.0 was Trautman's first since the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional final on April 3, 2021, and fourth on vault.