Title Or Bust For No. 1-Ranked Oklahoma Women

When the 2019 season began, the Oklahoma women’s  gymnastics team found itself ranked No. 2 in the nation. After losing out to UCLA in the 2018 championships, the ranking seemed to be a good reminder of what the Sooners missed out on.

However, one week into the season, Oklahoma took over the top spot in the rankings and have yet to relinquish its grasp on it.

But for a school that has built itself into a title-or-bust program, Oklahoma only wants to be No. 1 in the most important week of the season. That is the final one.

“I'd say that's more of a mindset that this team has every single year,” OU junior Jade Degouveia said. “That's kind of the culture here at Oklahoma. You come into practice every single day and you come to this school wanting to win championships, so we carry that out into our practices, into our meets, and that's definitely just a mindset that we have every single year.”

Oklahoma has won three of the last six NCAA women’s gymnastics championships. The three times they didn’t win, they were runners-up twice and finished third in the other year.

For some programs, second place would be quite an accomplishment. But that is not the case for the Sooners under coach K.J. Kindler. Since she arrived in 2006, her goal was to build a program that could not only compete with the powerhouses of women’s gymnastics, but also build one of her own.

“This program is something special. I think the coaches really know how to develop an athlete into a national championship athlete,” junior Maggie Nichols said. “It's really cool to see, just because every single athlete that Oklahoma brings in is so different and so unique, but they can make that gymnast into their own unique national championship athlete. It's just so cool to see how the whole team comes together and every athlete is just so amazing, so I'm just really excited to see how this weekend goes.”

OU is at a point where it is considered a contender every season. And when OU doesn’t win, like last season, the team comes back with even more fire.

“We had that potential last year to win, but this year I think we've all been very motivated even since the beginning of preseason just to take that title, because we have the talent,” Nichols said. “We have the passion. We work so hard in the gym, so we just want to go up there this next weekend and lay everything out on the floor and just show everyone what we've been working so hard for.”

But Nichols pointed out this year has not gone by smoothly for the Sooners. Despite the No. 1 ranking and undefeated record, they have had to battle through a myriad of obstacles.

“It would just mean so much to me and the whole team to win,” Nichols said. “We've been working so hard this whole season, and we've had a lot of hardships this year, a lot of things we've had to overcome, but after every single one of those hardships, we've grown closer as a team and grown a lot stronger, so I'm just really excited to see how that strength comes together as a team and to see that chemistry come together and just to go out there and win it all.”

The national champions will be held April 19-20 at the Fort Worth Convention Center. The Sooners will be in the second semifinal of the day, along with No. 5 Denver, No. 8 Georgia, and No. 15 Oregon State.

The first semifinal will consist of No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 LSU, No. 6 Utah, and No. 7 Michigan.

The NCAA is using a new format this year to decide the champion. Gone are the days of the Super Six, which the Sooners had advanced to eight times in the program’s history.

Now, the top two teams from each semifinal will advance to the first-ever Four on the Floor. That means two fewer spots in the finals, which means teams have to be even more focused in the semis.

But Oklahoma says it is ready for the pressure that comes with the meet.

“I think we're looking amazing,” Degouveia said. “At this point, I think we've built up a lot of confidence in the gym. I think we've built up a lot of confidence out on the competition floor, and I think we're ready to translate that into our performance at nationals, so I'm really excited. The team looks great.”

The Sooners enter the 2019 NCAA Championships as the top-scoring team in the nation. They posted a 198.475 to win the Athens Regional Championships.

However, winning its regional was just the warm-up to what Oklahoma really wants.  Which is to bring the gold hardware back to Norman.

“It spurs us a lot,” Degouveia said. “We're super excited to come back and get that title back this year. I think it's looking pretty good, but we'll see what happens.”

Cali Grand Invitational: Who Will Challenge Oklahoma At Season-Opener?

In recent history, Oklahoma has been the powerhouse team of the NCAA, winning four of the past six team titles. Most notably, the Sooners win this past year showed the NCAA that they are THE team to beat in 2020. 

Everything You Need To Know: 2020 California Grand & Collegiate Challenge

The California Grand Invitational and Collegiate Challenge is coming up, and this huge club and college competition is a great way to kick off the 2020 NCAA season and showcase many talented level 10 competitors. This meet will take place in Anaheim, California, at the Anaheim Convention Center. The venue is recently renovated and is sure to be a gorgeous spot to host this huge event. 

Rookie Coaches Bring Fresh Ideas To NCAA Gymnastics

Last week, we brought you reflections from some of the most veteran coaches in NCAA gymnastics. 

Maggie Nichols Leads Oklahoma Gymnastics Into 2020 Season

The 2020 NCAA season is less than a month away, and eight teams, including the reigning national champion Oklahoma Sooners, will begin their season at the California Grand Invitational & Collegiate Challenge.

5 Reasons To Watch The 2020 Cali Grand Invitational & Collegiate Challenge

The NCAA gymnastics season is coming up, and we could not be more excited! First up is the Cali Grand Invitational and Collegiate Challenge, featuring eight NCAA teams alongside level 10 club gymnasts. The competition will be held Jan. 3-5, with the NCAA teams competing Jan. 4.

Everything You Need To Know About Robot Judges Used At Worlds

With all the history made at World Championships 2019, it was easy to miss perhaps the biggest news of all: this was the first competition that included the use of artificial intelligence and 3D sensors, “robot judges” if you will, as an additional judging tool.

Veteran NCAA Gymnastics Coaches Reflect On Past, Present & Future

The 2020 NCAA gym season is stacked with talent, and not just from the athletes.

Philippine Gymnasts Prep For SEA Games Pressure

When Carlos Yulo made history for the Philippines by winning bronze on floor at the 2018 World Championships in Doha—his country's first world medal in gymnastics—he raised the bar. When he made history for the Philippines by winning gold on floor at the 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart―his country's first world title in gymnastics―he raised the bar even higher. 

2020 Collegiate Challenge Ticket Giveaway

FloGymnastics will be be kicking off the 2020 NCAA gymnastics season at the Collegiate Challenge on Jan. 4 and we're giving away tickets to watch the event in person! We will also be providing exclusive coverage of the competition including a live stream and video replays.

Who Are The Young Gymnasts Who Earned Bronze For Italy?

During last month’s 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, the U.S. won gold and Russia silver, but it was Italy, winners of the bronze medal, that captured hearts in Stuttgart and around the world.