Sooners punch ticket to NCAA semis with come from behind victory

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN- Oklahoma was in a position it wasn’t used to. The top-ranked team in the country found itself trailing at home midway through the Women’s Gymnastics NCAA Regional Championship.

On the verge of seeing their season come to an end, the Sooners mounted a ferocious comeback to roll up a score of 198.050 to claim its third straight regional championship and 14th overall. Kentucky earned runner-up status with 197.850.

Both will advance to the NCAA Championships. The Sooners will be aiming for their sixth national title in the past nine seasons

“I couldn’t be prouder of the whole team,” OU coach K.J. Kindler said. “It was a team effort from top to bottom. The crowd, though not huge in numbers, was incredibly impactful and very loud. I think they knew when they needed to be loud and how to be loud, and that was really great.”

No. 16 Ohio State and No. 8 Alabama took third and fourth, but will not be advancing to the championship meet.

With the regional victory, OU remains unbeaten at home this season. They have won all seven home meets in 2023, including competitions against the second and third-place finishers at the 2022 NCAA Championships, Florida and Utah.

“Being in front of a home crowd is definitely an advantage to us and they were so freaking loud today,” sophomore Jordan Bowers said. “Just an amazing environment to be in and that really just rallied us together as well to keep the momentum going.”

The Sooners began the evening on the bars. Of their six competitors, four of them reached at least 9.90.  Bowers led the way with a 9.975 to help give OU a team score of 49.675, which was the best regionals bars score in program history.

It was also good enough to put them in first place through one rotation.

However, that lead slipped away during the second rotation. With OU on the balance beam, Jenna Dunn (9.1) and Olivia Trautman (9.3) both fell during their routines and they were unable to recover. They posted a 49.075 and dropped to third place behind Kentucky and Ohio State.

Heading into their third rotation, Oklahoma had some ground to make up if they wanted to defend their title. With the partisan fans encouraging them on, they headed to the floor exercises.

The Sooners responded in a big way. Bowers, Raena Worley, Faith Torrez and Danielle Sievers each posted a 9.950 on their routines. Then Danae Fletcher then closed out the rotation with a 9.900.

Oklahoma’s team score of 49.675 tied their best score in postseason history on the floor. It vaulted them back into first place with 148.425. The Wildcats were on their heels at 148.400 heading into the final rotation.

With another trip to the NCAA Championships within reach, Oklahoma had no letdown on the vault. Katherine Levasseur set the tone with a perfect 10 that brought the fans at Lloyd Noble Center to their feet.  It was the junior’s third 10.0 score this season.

Trautman (9.975) and Arianna Patterson (9.50) sealed the victory for the Sooners.

Along with Levasseur having the highest score on the vault, Oklahoma took high honors on the bars Bowers), beam (Torrez) and floor (Bowers) also.

Bowers won the all-around for the eighth time this season with a 39.700.

The Sooners will compete in the NCAA Championships semifinals on Thursday, April 13 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth.

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Photos: OU Athletics

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