OU gymnastics team advances to NCAA Regional final along with Ohio State, Kentucky & Alabama

NORMAN — It wasn’t pretty for OU’s women’s gymnastics team Thursday night.

But the Sooners advanced.

OU, ranked first all season and the top overall seed, won the second session of the NCAA Regional on Thursday at Lloyd Noble Center, beating No. 16 Ohio State, No. 17 Arkansas and No. 30 North Carolina State with a score of 197.925.

The Sooners and Buckeyes each advance to the regional final, which will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday night at Lloyd Noble Center.

Ohio State finished second at 197.350.

Kentucky and Alabama also advanced to the final with their performance in the first session earlier Thursday.

The Sooners stuck just three of their 18 landings, half the amount they did two weeks early in the Big 12 Championships.

“That was definitely consequential to our score and I also felt like it stopped us from ever gaining any momentum,” Sooners coach K.J. Kindler said. “We’re capable of so much more. It just felt like we could never get the momentum going because we weren’t hitting on all cylinders. We were a little up and down.”

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the victory:

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The Sooners started off on the balance beam and got off to a bit of a rocky start.

Olivia Trautman began with a 9.875, then Katherine LeVasseur followed with a 9.725 and Jordan Bowers with a 9.8.

Bowers had posted just one score below 9.875 in the event all season.

Freshman Faith Torrez helped start to turn things around a bit in the fourth slot with a 9.925.

After Audrey Davis’ 9.875, Ragan Smith followed with a perfect 10.

The perfect score was Smith’s third of the season — and second consecutive.

“She’s obviously great in that event,” Sooners coach K.J. Kindler said. “Not only does she have good confidence but she has impeccable form, technique and she thrives in that anchor position.

“We needed it and she came through kind of in a pinch so that was super great.”

It was Smith’s fifth career 10 in the event. Only Maggie Nichols, who had seven perfect 10s in the beam, has had more among Sooners’ gymnasts.

But even with Smith’s perfect score, the Sooners trailed Ohio State 49.525-49.475.

OU’s score in the event was its third-worst on the beam this season and worst since the second meet of the season.

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The Sooners saved their best for last, showing why they’ve been top ranked on the uneven bars for much of the season.

On a night where the 9.9-plus scores OU usually gets regularly were sometimes hard to come by, the Sooners got four such scores in the bars to post a 49.6.

The highlight came from Jordan Bowers, who posted her first career perfect 10 on the bars in the fifth spot.

Bowers now has 10s in three events. She had a 10 in the floor exercise against West Virginia on Feb. 24 and posted one on the vault last season against Michigan.

The sophomore needs only a 10 on the balance beam to achieve the Gym Slam — perfect scores in each event during her career.

Bowers has come close, scoring a 9.975 on the beam, Feb. 19 at Texas Woman’s.

Teammate Danielle Sievers said it was just a matter of time.

“She hits 10 on beam routines day in and day out,” Sievers said. 

Maggie Nichols is the only Sooners’ gymnast to achieve the Gym Slam, becoming the first women’s gymnast to achieve the feat twice when she did it first in 2017 and again in 2018.

UCLA’s Kyla Ross equalled Nichols’ feat in 2019. Ross was in the building Thursday as an assistant coach for Arkansas.

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After the rough start on the beam, there was plenty of nervous energy inside Lloyd Noble Center.

Danielle Sievers helped calm that down.

Sievers posted a 9.9 on the floor, second in a string of three consecutive scores of 9.9 or better to close out the event for the Sooners.

That’s no surprise, as Sievers has been tabbed by OU coach K.J. Kindler as the most consistent performer for the Sooners.

“Those last three were good but they still aren’t what they’re capable of,” Kindler said. “Dani’s routine was great. It was probably actually our best floor routine in terms of what people normally do.”

Sievers has been limited in practice recently.

“I think she had some fresh legs — fresher legs,” Kindler said.

Sievers showed why again Thursday, with a 9.9 on the vault and a 9.95 on the bars.

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Sooners coach K.J. Kindler tinkered with her lineup a bit, most notably inserting Katherine LeVasseur into the beam lineup for just the fifth time this season and keeping Jenna Dunn out of the event for just the second time in her career.

“If I was going to take an opportunity to see what Kat could do for us, I was going to do it today,” Kindler said.

Kindler said it was likely Dunn would return to the balance beam lineup Saturday.

Kindler also said she hoped Danae Fletcher, who posted a 9.95 in the floor exercise against Michigan on March 6 and who has been a major piece in the Sooners’ floor lineup, could return to the event soon — perhaps as soon as Saturday.

For the second consecutive meet, Fletcher competed in just the uneven bars.

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In the earlier session, a pair of OU’s future conference rivals advanced, with ninth-ranked Kentucky besting No. 8 Alabama 197.475-197.375.

Iowa finished third at 196.5.

The Sooners knocked off Alabama 198.125-198.0 in the Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas on Feb. 11. They have yet to face Kentucky this season.

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