MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 20, 2014

Oklahoma, Florida share women’s national title


Associated Press

— BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Oklahoma and Florida waited uncertainly before both could begin celebrating.

The defending champion Gators and first-time winner Oklahoma became the first co-champions in NCAA women’s gymnastics, with scores of 198.175 in the Super Six on Saturday night.

They shared the win and the podium after a few minutes of wondering if there was some method for breaking a tie.

“We just sat in limbo for quite some time until someone with really good authority came and told us there was no tiebreaker,” Oklahoma coach K.J. Kindler said.

Florida finished with a pair of 9.95s on the floor exercise and Oklahoma also had two on the vault to overtake Alabama. Neither team seemed to mind sharing.

“Personally, I think a tie is one of the best ways to do it,” said Florida star Bridget Sloan, a 2008 Olympian. “Not only did we get this incredible score, but there’s no reason to break a tie when both teams did phenomenal.

“A tiebreaker kind of ruins that feeling of being accomplished. Not only are we repeating, but we’re making history.”

LSU finished third at 197.60 followed by Alabama, which held a slight lead before having to count a fall on the balance beam on the final rotation.

The Gators captured their first title last season. Oklahoma had finished in the top three in three of the past four years, including a pair of runner-up finishes.

“Our team was just in a magical place from the second we got here tonight,” Kindler said. “We worked through (Friday’s) meet, but today we didn’t work at all. It was like gymnasts were dropping from the sky, all butterflies and wonderful things.

“There was very little error from our team. That’s the best we can do it, and obviously that’s what it took. We knew coming in that we could do it. I don’t think anybody else gave us a chance.”

Florida was led by Sloan, who scored a 9.95 on the vault and balance beam, 9.925 on the floor and 9.90 on the uneven parallel bars.

The 2013 all-around and beam champion fell on that event in Friday’s semifinals, but vowed this time that “there was no way I was going off that beam.”

Kytra Hunter had a 9.5 on both the vault and floor, while Bridgette Caquatto did it on bars and floor for the Gators.

“They just competed with so much passion and energy,” Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said. “Just all-in for everybody on the team. That’s what we ask of them. It was an incredible experience for this team to be able to repeat the national championship. It was just so surreal last year to win and then to be able to repeat this year, I’m still kind of in a fog about it.”

“I have so much respect for K.J. and what she’s done with that program and wouldn’t want to share the title with anyone else.”