Can OU repeat as NCAA women's gymnastics champion? Sooners have plenty left in the tank

FORT WORTH, Texas — OU women’s gymnastics coach K.J. Kindler was far from discouraged with her top-ranked Sooners’ second-place performance in Thursday’s NCAA semifinals.

Instead, Kindler looked up and down the scoresheet and saw areas where her team could make up ground in Saturday’s NCAA finals against Florida, LSU and Utah.

“I felt like the team had incredible energy, but we definitely left a lot of tenths on the floor,” Kindler said. “There is no doubt about it.

“We can probably come up with at least six more just on landings alone on bars and beam.”

Though Thursday’s result was unusual — it was the first time since 2013 where the Sooners failed to win their semifinal — Kindler has plenty of precedent to look toward as she prepares for her team’s 10th consecutive national finals appearance.

Carlson: Don't let the sequins and glitter fool you. OU gymnast Jordan Bowers knows how to fight

The OU women's gymnastics team celebrates Thursday night after advancing to the the NCAA finals at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Utah 'blew it out of the park' in NCAA semifinals

Only twice in the previous nine appearances have the Sooners posted a lesser score in the finals than they did in the semifinals.

The last of those came in 2018.

“We’ve been in this meet a lot of times and we’ve blown it out of the park on the first night and it’s hard to recapture that when you do that,” Kindler said. “So I do feel like we have so much more that we can gain coming back in here Saturday.”

Instead it was Utah who “blew it out of the park” in Thursday’s semifinals, finishing on the uneven bars and balance beam to close the gap.

Their final rotation included Maile O’Keefe’s perfect 10 on the beam, which not only clinched the all-around title for her but also lifted the Red Rocks within striking distance of the Sooners after three sub-9.9 scores by OU on the vault kept the door open.

Then Grace McCallum, a 2020 Olympian, posted a 9.925 to close out the event and give Utah a 198.2250-198.1625 win over the Sooners.

“Vault, you can never hope to stick all your vaults because that’s not realistic, especially doing our forward-landing vaults that we do,” Kindler said. “But if we can capture two or three really good ones, that’s going to help tremendously.”

More: 'Everyone loved it, right?': How OU gymnast Danae Fletcher stars with sassy floor routine

OU's Jordan Bowers celebrates after competing in the floor exercise during the semifinals on Thursday.

Olivia Trautman, Sooners 'super happy' to have shot at NCAA women's gymnastics title

Add that to the landings the Sooners missed on bars and beam Thursday, and there’s plenty of ground for OU to gain in its quest for a second consecutive national title.

“All the teams are great, so we’re just super happy to be in this position,” said Olivia Trautman, who closed out the Sooners’ vault lineup with a 9.95 to earn her first NCAA individual championship.

It also certainly gives Kindler confidence that their two best scores Thursday came in the two events where the Sooners weren’t ranked No. 1 coming in.

The two lowest came on uneven bars and vault, where OU has been the best in the country all season.

Thursday’s results are wiped away heading into Saturday, which starts with a fresh slate.

But Kindler kept pointing to Thursday’s results as evidence her team could make significant strides in less than 48 hours.

“To me, the gymnastics was phenomenal but the landings could’ve been better tonight,” Kindler said. “I think when you’re trying to repeat something that felt almost perfect, that’s very difficult to do.

“We didn’t feel perfect tonight. We felt good, though.”

More: OU women's gymnastics: Sooners battle back from falls to win NCAA Regional

OU's Faith Torrez competes in the floor exercise during the semifinals of the NCAA women's gymnastics championships Thursday.

How to watch NCAA women's gymnastics final

WHO: Oklahoma, Utah, LSU and Florida

WHEN: 3 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas


This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU women's gymnastics sees room to grow for NCAA championship final