Oklahoma Head Coach KJ Kindler has worked with some of the biggest names in collegiate gymnastics, but she says she knew immediately there was something special about Anastasia Webb.
“I will never forget a conversation I had with her her freshman year,” Kindler said. “We were doing choreography, and she just cornered me and she said, ‘Do you think we can win a national championship this year? Do you think I’m doing a good enough job to help us get there?’”
Kindler was surprised at the big goals the freshman had. Newcomers typically enter college with more than a few nerves, expectations and the stress of simply trying to figure the whole college thing out.
“Just the fact that in the forefront of her mind was that really big goal, that really big result, told me that she was destined for big things,” Kindler said.
And Webb certainly has accomplished big things thus far. She was the 2018 Big 12 Co-Newcomer of the Year, has three first-team All-America honors and over 30 career event titles—just to name a few of her many accomplishments.
But despite being the most decorated returning member on Oklahoma’s 2021 roster, Webb is arguably its most underrated, perennially eclipsed by teammates with greater name recognition—from Brenna Dowell to Ragan Smith and of course, Maggie Nichols. Yet point-for-point, it’s Webb who has been the team’s top contributor since 2019. In her freshman season, only Nichols outscored her.
Kindler is well aware of Webb’s value to the team.
“Because she’s so consistent and can bring such a huge score, we’d put her toward the beginning of the lineup to really set the tone,” Kindler said. “This year, you’re going to see her at the end on every event, either the anchor or fifth. You’re going to see her being that ‘bring it home’ score at the end. That’s something she’s really strived for her whole career; she thrives off that position.”
Unsurprisingly, Webb was a highly sought-after recruit, drawing interest from top programs, including LSU, Utah, Denver and Michigan. So what set Oklahoma apart? Kindler credits former Sooner star Haley Scaman with giving the Sooners of that era the edge.
“Haley had an incredible career here, and she loved it,” Kindler said. “Anastasia loves Haley, so thank you, Haley Scaman! Because that was a big sell for us in the recruiting process.”
Scaman’s influence goes beyond simply being a draw for Webb the recruit. The senior even has a move in her floor routine this year that mirrors what Scaman did during her time in Norman.
“We were never on a team together, but we trained at the same club,” Webb said. “I really look up to her. She’s such a quiet and confident role model.”
Scaman isn’t her only source of inspiration, though, noting the relationship she and Florida’s Trinity Thomas have developed over the past couple of years through congratulatory Instagram DMs and well wishes before meets, as well as her own teammate, Audrey Davis, who is in her freshman year at Oklahoma.
“She’s doing these hard, elite skills, which gives me confidence that I can do those harder skills as well,” Webb said.
Webb has nothing but praise for all of her freshman teammates, whom she refers to as “my little sisters.” And she’s taken her role as a leader of the team to heart, offering up advice before meets and knowing she was once in their shoes, too.
“I told them just to be confident. This is just like any other competition or training, they know how to do this,” Webb said. “Also, what my dad always tells me, ‘Hang loose!’”
That advice has served them well so far: Webb led the Sooners to a 197.350 in the home opening win against Arizona State, as well as a 197.050 against Utah Sunday, and she hopes it’s just the beginning of the team’s success this season.
“Winning a championship would be amazing, especially since that opportunity was taken from us last year,” Webb said. “We came out this season without some of the big names that we’ve had [in the past], and we still scored as well as we did, even without necessarily doing our best routines. I think we showed we have what [it takes] to win.”
Though the team’s success is at the forefront of Webb’s mind, she is also excited by what she could personally achieve in her senior season.
“I would love to win an individual title,” she said. “That would be a dream come true. That would just be [ending] on a high note.”