NORMAN — After an injury plagued 2012, the Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team enters its season looking to retain its spot among the nation’s elite.
OU is coming off a No. 7 NCAA meet finish, narrowly missing its third-straight Super Six berth after fighting through multiple injuries over last season. The Sooners return a veteran core complemented by a strong freshman class that has senior Brie Olson looking forward to getting the season started.
“I think it’s going to be a great year,” Olson said. “We have great team chemistry. It’s got even stronger within the last couple of months. I don’t think anyone has a chance of tearing us apart as long as we stick together.”
The fourth-ranked Sooners kick off the season Saturday at No. 11 Georgia. It’s the first of 11 teams OU will face this year currently ranked in the top 25.
The Sooners enter the 2013 season after winning their fourth Big 12 title in five years. OU has also won three straight NCAA regional crowns.
Along with three-time All-American Olson, OU brings back a pair of two-time All-Americans in junior Madison Mooring and sophomore Erica Brewer. Newcomers to the squad include Lauren Alexander, Maile’ana Kanewa, Keeley Kmieciak, Hunter Price and Haley Scaman.
“We are known as a beam team,” OU coach K.J. Kindler said. “Our team knows it, and takes great pride in executing this event with that expectation. We continue to perform unique choreography and we pay great attention to detail.
“In the offseason, we made our main focus leaps and jumps. This squad has shown tremendous improvement on these elements and we believe it will make them standout.”
The Sooners, though, will be without senior Kayla Nowak. The two-time All-American injured her back and is likely out for the season.
“You can’t take it for granted,” Olson said. “It’s a big eye opener when things don’t go the way they should and you really take it to heart.”
Lauren Smith, Olson and Nowak are the only seniors. They’re still trying to guide the program to a long-awaited first NCAA championship.
“I think what it will take for us to break through and win it is us just being a team, and trusting ourselves and in each other,” Olson said. “I don’t think it has to do with skills. It’s just time to trust ourselves and just do what we know how to do and have fun doing it.”
Michael KinneyFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org