It was Washington’s Paige Bixler’s last chance to make it to nationals. And the prospect of not getting another opportunity to suit up again made it an emotional conclusion to her career.
“It’s very bittersweet,” Bixler said. “I’m so happy that my team did so well. It’s great to go out on a good note. But I’ve done this my whole life and now I’m done. I don’t really know what to think.”
Stanford advanced to its ninth NCAA championship. But according to coach Kristen Smyth, this may have been the toughest in her time with the program.
“They fought the whole night,” Smyth said. “It was not an easy meet by any means. They did a great job of covering each other and standing up tall when they needed to.”
The Sooners were on vault in the first rotation. It had been the weakest of the events for the Sooners for much of the season. But Madison Mooring pulled out 9.925 to lead the OU attack out of the gate.
“Our theme tonight on vault was go big,” Kindler said. “We wanted to see really big vaults and focus on the landings. We definitely wanted to see really big vaults.”
OU kept on the attack when it got to the uneven bars. Spears gave the partisan crowd a boost when she flew off the bars and stuck her landing. The Big 12 gymnast of the year had a giant smile on her face and ran into the arms of her teammates. The crowd erupted even before they showed her score of 9.9.
Heading into the sixth and final rotation, the Sooners stood in third place with 147.950 points. They trailed both Washington and Penn State, who were done for the evening.
OU needed to get at least a team score of 48 to hold onto the title. Unfortunately for the rest of the competition, the Sooners lead the nation with an average score of 49.470 on the floor exercises.