The Oklahoma Sooners will go for their third straight NCAA title tonight in the Super Six finals. Junior Nicole Lehrmann is part of a junior class that has never not hoisted the trophy at the end of the competition. Lehrmann contributed solely on bars and beam the past two seasons.
This year, she has been a steady contributor on vault as well and added floor in several meets as well. She has not scored lower than a 9.900 on bars this season including back-to-back 9.975s against Texas Woman’s and at the Big 12 Championships.
The junior has gone 9.850 or better 12 times on balance beam this season. Lehrmann’s best all-around performance came against Michigan on March 3 where she posted a 39.675.
Oklahoma will aim to defend its title tonight against UCLA, LSU, Florida, Utah, and Nebraska.
What is your favorite event to perform on and why?
Mine is definitely bars. I’ve always been a very confident person on bars so it’s been very fun to go out there and show off what I’ve been training. Honestly, bars is just fun because you get to swing and I think it’s the closest you get to flying. I just love bars and I love performing it.
Has bars always been your favorite or did it evolve as your career went on?
I’ve always struggled with certain skills in my club days or there would be some skills that would become hard that I’d have to really work on. Like my jaeger actually took me a really long time to learn but then once I had it, it just clicked with me. But honestly coming to OU they really hone in on a lot of small details and little things so that you’re so worried about the little things a lot of times that the big things aren’t so much something you need to worry about because they just come to you. I think the way we train creates the confidence in it so then you can just go out there and trust your training and have fun.
What is your favorite skill to perform on any event?
That’s a hard one. If I had to pick one, it would probably be my second pass on floor because I do a one and a half to a half to a jump. The jump goes really high and it’s a lot of fun to do.
What is the most challenging skill that you’ve learned and what made it challenging for you?
It would probably be my flip flop layout on beam. When I was in club, we didn’t train beam the same way we train it here so I was very inconsistent on beam. I would have bent arms in my flic-lay or I wouldn’t have height so I was very scared of it. But coming here, KJ had to do a lot of work with my flic-lay even [as] a freshman in college it still wasn’t that great so she had to work with me a lot on it in order to get me to have better jump or better height. It’s a lot better now, but it did take a lot of work.
What is the biggest thing you’ve taken away from the regular season that you’ll look to use in the postseason?
I definitely think it’s the confidence and the experience. Even being a junior, this being my third year, I think every meet, every time you go out there and compete something you earn a lot of experience. I think that really helps carry over into postseason and every year’s a little bit different. You take your confidence in your routines from this year and you just take that into postseason where it’s more pressure. You might be tired, you might have injuries that you’ve accumulated from the season but you’re able to push through that because you have confidence in yourself and in your team. That’s also really important. Having confidence in your team members and having experience with your new team. There’s a new team every year and I think that’s really important moving from season into postseason.
How does the adversity that your team faces during the regular season help prepare you for the postseason?
I think it showed what not to do. At that meet, we were off our game. I was one of the people who fell and I had heard the crowd react when Stefani [Catour] fell and I was a little bit out of it. It shows you how to keep it in control, how to handle the pressure and how to handle when things might go wrong. I actually really appreciate that meet, that we really did struggle that meet. That wasn’t an easy meet for us. I think that every meet is for a purpose and that was a learning meet. We haven’t had that low of a score on beam in a long time. Sometimes you can get on a comfortable podium and that’s not good in our sport. You can’t really ever get comfortable. I think that was a fire under the butt to say ‘hey, don’t ever get comfortable’ because you can always make mistakes.’
How do you bounce back from a fall?
If you fall in the middle of a routine you always have to keep going and push it off because if something else happens, they still might have to count your score. I know a lot of people when you fall are like ‘well they’re not going to count my score’ so they kind of disregard their routine. But you always have to remember they still might need your score so you have to push through and do the best gymnastics in what’s left of it.
If there’s a fall in the lineup ahead of you, it’s important to not think about it in my eyes because a lot of times when you think about it, you stress about it and think ‘oh no, there was a fall, what am I going to do?’ Then you’re just putting this extra pressure on yourself and that’s not helpful. It’s never helpful to go out and do your best gymnastics when you’re thinking about a fall or someone else’s mistake. I think it’s better to either forget that it happened or go up there and use it to give yourself even more confidence. This is what you’ve got to do for your team, you can do this, trust your training. You don’t fall that much in training so why is it different at a meet? It’s not.
Make that 👌👌👌 THREE sticks in a row! The reigning bar champ @nico_613 puts up a HUGE 9.950!— Oklahoma Women's Gym (@OU_WGymnastics) February 11, 2018
What has been the biggest challenge for you personally this season?
I’d say this has probably been one of the hardest seasons I’ve had school wise. It can be difficult to balance the schooling and traveling and stuff like that and homework. I’ve really had to learn how to prioritize both school and gymnastics. I’m a procrastinator so it’s been a really big challenge for me this season to really schedule my time in order to get the appropriate sleep I need in order to be the best in the gym that I can be. I really had to work on myself and organizing my time.
Being the two-time defending national champions and going for a third title, is there any added pressure that you feel heading into this postseason?
You can say you don’t feel the added pressure but there is. You don’t want to lose that title. At the same time, it’s more the pressure on ourselves. It’s not like we’re saying we don’t want to lose to other people but we say we want to be as good as the past teams, if not better in order to achieve that again. It’s not scared of the competition, it’s scared of not doing our best. At the end of the day—and I’m pretty sure my whole team would say this—if we went out there and had our best meet and were still beaten, we wouldn’t be upset. It would be more if we made mistakes, if we made crucial errors that led us to lose, that would be what we put the emphasis on.
How would describe yourself in three words?
A jokester, driven, and spunky.
What are you most looking forward to about competing in the postseason?
Honestly just being out there. You can’t really ever explain it. I’ve tried to explain it to our freshmen but unless you’re out there the feeling of the crowd and almost being done with the season gives you even more drive to give it everything you’ve got, do the best that you can and enjoy every single moment. It’s honestly just a rush that I haven’t felt anywhere else and haven’t been able to feel in any other meet. It’s just something so unique to postseason.