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OU women's gymnastics: Sooners looking to push past Stanford in Perfect 10 Challenge

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K.J. Kindler and the Sooners

Head coach K.J. Kindler talks to the Sooners after the match against West Virginia and Texas Woman's University on Feb. 14.

No. 1 Oklahoma (13-0, 2-0 Big 12) will take its talents to the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Friday night for a showdown with No. 25 Stanford (3-9) in the Perfect 10 Challenge.

In its last meet, OU rode senior Maggie Nichols' perfect vault and bars routines to a victory over West Virginia and Texas Woman's University.

Now the Sooners find themselves pitted against a familiar opponent who they faced in week one of this season, a foe who holds a claim to just three victories this year.

Despite their ugly record on paper, Stanford is an adversary that Oklahoma cannot afford to discount. The Cardinals are still ranked in the top 25 in the NCAA thanks to a difficult schedule in which they have faced five different higher-ranked opponents this season, some on more than one occasion.

OU head coach K.J. Kindler certainly isn't taking this coming weekend's challenger for granted, while noting an observation that she made in the teams' season opener that could be the key to the Sooners success on Friday.

"What I learned about Stanford that day was that they're extremely strong on floor, one of the stronger tumbling teams I've seen," Kindler said. "And I know that's probably the event we need to push the most to match up with them."

Accomplishing Kindler's goal won't necessarily be easy, as many Sooners continue to deal with respiratory issues. Nichols and senior Jade Degouveia, junior Anastasia Webb and freshmen Brooke Weins and Erin Hutchison are all said to be nursing a mild cold, and in Kindler's estimation, everyone on the team is dealing with the issue to some degree.

"It runs them thin, and they get fatigued quicker, and it's not ideal, so we just have to work through it," Kindler said.

The Sooners' mental fortitude will also be important to their attempts to find success similar to what they experienced in the 2019 Perfect 10 Challenge.

In last year's version of the contest, Kindler earned her 450th career win, although when asked if she recalled the anniversary of the momentous achievement, she instead pointed to a different accolade: then-freshman Olivia Trautman's perfect 10.0 on floor.

It was Trautman's first career perfect routine, an event that Kindler says the sophomore will not soon forget.

"You always remember that very first moment when you get a 10," Kindler said, "Because first of all, not very many people get them, but when you do get them it's something you don't forget."

As the Sooners prepare for Friday's contest, Dave Richardson will likely also be on their minds. Dave, the late husband of OU women's gymnastics trainer Jenn Richardson, was a great friend of the program and the motivation behind Oklahoma's 2019 NCAA Championship. Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Dave's passing after a long battle with colon cancer.

Friday's meet is set to begin at 6:45 p.m. CT and will be streamed live for premium subscribers on SoonerSports.TV.

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Mason Young is a journalism sophomore and The Daily's assistant sports editor. He covers OU football and previously covered OU women's gym, OU wrestling and former Sooners in the NFL. He has also spent some time as a senior news reporter for The Daily.

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