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OU women's gymnastics: 3 things to know before Saturday's meet with Arizona State

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Nichols

Junior Maggie Nichols performs her beam routine March 3, 2019.

Fresh off a season opening quad meet victory over No. 4 UCLA, No. 9 California, and No. 22 Stanford last weekend, No. 1 Oklahoma (3-0) will look to build on a strong start to the 2020 season as the team travels to Tempe, Arizona to take on No. 21 Arizona State (2-1) on Saturday.

The Sooners are 3-0 against the Sun Devils in program history, but have not faced Arizona State since 2014, when OU came away with a 197.45-194.150 win in Norman.

Maggie Nichols focusing on little things after big week

Following a sensational showing in last Saturday's season opener in which she won the bars title with a score of 9.975, senior Maggie Nichols was named the Big 12 Gymnast of the Week for the 11th time in her career.

Though that accolade might seem like just another small trinket to someone who has received so many trophies in their time as an athlete, for Nichols, it's still a special honor.

"It’s just so exciting to get that notification on my phone and just to see it," Nichols said. "Every single time I get really excited, because it’s a huge honor."

Nichols takes no award for granted regardless of its size, and the same is true of the elements and pieces of each of her routines. In fact, it's the little things in each routine that count the most.

Even after a week where she posted the second best all-around score in the country (39.625), Nichols remains honed in on the fine points of her skills heading into Saturday's meet in Tempe.

"... Better cast handstands, better landings, better vault landings, better floor, better beams, everything a little bit better, a little sharper, cleaner, more consistent..." Nichols said. "I felt like I hit my routines on every event pretty strong, but I feel like I definitely have a lot of room to improve on every single event so I’m really excited."

Stellar debut providing momentum for Ragan Smith

Freshman Ragan Smith began her college career with a spectacular performance in Anaheim last Saturday, as she led the Sooners with a 9.9 on beam, and secured her first collegiate accolade, the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week award for the first week of the season.

The strong start to 2020 was a boost of confidence for Smith, who is finding her groove already, and plans to use her newfound poise to propel her as the season moves along.

"I feel like my hard work in the gym definitely paid off there so I’m going to keep going with that next competition," Smith said.

For Oklahoma head coach K.J. Kindler, seeing the joy on Smith's face during the competition was the best part of watching her freshman gymnast's first college meet.

"It was just exciting to see her out there for the first time and really enjoying representing OU and being in that collegiate atmosphere, and that very team atmosphere that we’ve created in College gymnastics, so it was just fun to see her enjoy and be very joyful out there," Kindler said.

K.J. Kindler pleased with first meet, still "a long way to go"

Coach K.J. Kindler's squad's near flawless launch last weekend culminated in a NCAA high 197.350 total score, a mark that Kindler was delighted with.

"(I was) super pleased that we hit not only the twenty-four routines in our lineup, but two additional routines, so twenty-six total routines, and that’s pretty unusual to be able to do that right out of the gate," Kindler said.

Despite her team's sprinting start, Kindler certainly isn't getting complacent with her group's performance.

"(I'm) really happy with where we’re at right now, but we still have a long way to go," Kindler said.

Saturday's meet is set for 5:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN 2.

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