Women's gymnastics: Sooners pass podium-performance test in OKC
The OU women’s gymnastics team broke the 197-mark for the third time this season in a decisive win against Iowa State and Southeast Missouri State at the Perfect 10 Challenge on Friday at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
But the team also gained something in some ways more valuable than a pair of wins — early experience competing on a podium.
Most regular-season gymnastics meets are on solid ground, but the NCAA Championships are on podiums, raised wooden platforms.
Former Sooner gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Bart Connor — who hosted the event with his wife and fellow Olympic gold medalist, Nadia Comaneci — said having podiums only at the end of the year is like playing an entire basketball season outdoors then playing the Final Four indoors.
That’s a big reason why he wanted the Perfect 10 Challenge to have podiums.
“Putting it on the podium, I think, is a big help,” Connor said. “It’s really different. The equipment’s different. It really gives it that championship feel.”
Senior Megan Ferguson, who captured event titles on beam and floor Friday, said performing on a platform changes the feel of every event.
“It feels different to do gymnastics on hollow wood as opposed to concrete,” Ferguson said. “Sometimes it can feel like a significant change. It’s a lot springier.”
She said getting the chance to adjust to the podium at this point in the season gives the Sooners a little bit of an advantage.
Senior Sara Stone, who won the vault title, also said Friday’s meet was good practice for the postseason.
“It’s a good experience for nationals,” Stone said. “It’s good to get out there and experience it early before the end of the year.”
Although the Sooners made a few mistakes while adjusting to the podium, OU coach K.J. Kindler said her team passed the test.
But she said there still is room for improvement.
“There’s nothing more difficult than having your first person have a mistake and knowing you have no mistakes left,” Kindler said. “I thought it was a good test for us. I thought we could have gotten an A on the best, but I think we only got a B.
“We passed it, but we need to do better in those situations.”
Kindler said sophomore Taylor Spears’ floor routine was the highlight of the event. And that would have been obvious to anyone at the meet because of the sophomore’s beaming smile after the event.
“It was the best routine she’s had all year,” Kindler said.
Spears captured the all-around title, her third this season.
OU’s performance at the inaugural Perfect 10 Challenge event impressed Connor, who had high praise for the Sooners.
“One of the things I really like about K.J.’s teams is the polish, and that really pays off in the championship part of the season,” Connor said. “There are probably a few other teams that do more difficulty, but no team has more polish and clean lines and great execution. That’s impressive.”
The Sooners have another tough road test against No. 18 Missouri on Friday in Columbia, Mo.