The Norman Transcript

March 8, 2013

Kmieciak quickly adapts to college atmosphere

By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The No. 2 Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team looks to keep its record clean this weekend with a pair of home meets. It starts at 7 p.m. today when the Sooners face No. 16 Arizona at Lloyd Noble Center. OU will be back in action Sunday against No. 9 Stanford and North Carolina for the final home meet of the season.

“It’s a big challenge,” Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler said. “But I would say this is a lot of what we will be seeing in the postseason. Our goal is to make the Super Six, so you are pretty much going three days in a row of intense gymnastics. This is a hint of that.”

Freshman Keeley Kmieciak has never experienced the type of atmosphere the Sooners will see in the postseason. But she has been able to handle every hurdle thrown at her so far and enjoyed every moment.

“I actually think it’s going really well,” Kmieciak said. “I started off a little bit rough. College gymnastics is a lot different than club. I fell in my first two meets. But after that I got used to it, and I feel I’m doing a lot better.”

Coming from the club setting in high school to college, Kmieciak had to learn to be a teammate and realize that not every misstep was the end of the world.

“It was really hard because I’m a perfectionist,” Kmieciak said. “I like to do really, really well at every meet, but I remembered it is for the team. I know that if I do bad at one event, I have to do better at the other events to help the team out. It’s different from club. I like it a lot better. It’s more fun with the team aspect. More energy.”

The Naperville, Ill., native has quickly risen to become one of the Sooners’ top gymnasts. That includes doing the All-Around, which is usually reserved for upperclassmen.

“She has been extremely consistent,” Kindler said. “You know you can count on her when she goes out there. She is a very competitive person, very competitive athlete. She has been a huge asset. She has been performing fantastic. She is a freshman all-arounder and that is pretty rare, to be honest with you, in the NCAA.”

Kmieciak is looking forward to the home meets this weekend. Performing in front of the Sooner faithful has been the best part of the season so far.

But her goal is to help OU reach its ultimate goal.

“It was a little bit scary coming here, I am not going to lie,” Kmieciak said. “They are such a big deal and they have been ranked really well. They haven’t won nationals yet, but I was hoping to come here and be a part of that.”

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