It’s time to make room in the dynasty club. Oklahoma and gymnastics have become as synonymous as UConn and women’s basketball, Iowa and wrestling, Alabama and football, and the other all-time monumental college programs.
The Sooners tallied a 198.3875 on Saturday to win the 2023 NCAA gymnastics championship, repeating as winners, tying their own championship-record score, and securing their sixth title in the last nine years. After missing the championship final by a tenth in 2012, Oklahoma has made every one since and finished as champion or runner-up every year in that streak with the exception of 2015—when it finished third.
“I heard people are wearing T-shirts that say ‘Anyone but Oklahoma’ out in the audience. So that’s fun,” head coach KJ Kindler joked post-meet. “But you know, it’s OK. You take it.”
Silencing the haters is vital in establishing a dynasty, and the Sooners did just that in leading wire-to-wire en route to the title. Oklahoma vaulted out to the lead in the first rotation, with vault champion Olivia Trautman dialing in for another stellar landing before Jordan Bowers and Danielle Sievers hit back-to-back 9.9500s to anchor floor and seal the deal.
Florida—who saw Trinity Thomas tie UCLA’s Jamie Dantzscher and Kentucky’s Jenny Hansen for the all-time 10s record at 28 with a perfect score on vault—finished second with a 198.2375, Utah scored a 197.9375 to place third for the third-straight season, and LSU rounded out the field with a 197.5250.
“They just had this level of confidence that, honestly, I hadn’t seen all season,” remarked Kindler. “I just had that feeling today was our day, and we just left it all out on the floor. I mean, it was just a great day for all of us.”
Expectations were high for the Sooners entering nationals as the defending champions, the top seed, the No. 1-ranked team every week this season, and thus, the favorites. With those skyrocketing standards, the athletes stay focused and motivated knowing nothing is a given.
“We are defending a legacy because this program is just amazing,” said Sievers, who was crucial in leading off the Sooners on vault and bars with hits. “We’re really grateful to be a part of this team. But every year is new. Every team is new. So we all work together to win another national championship.”
“You look around the gym and you see all of the gymnasts that were before you on the wall, holding up their national trophy,” added Audrey Davis, who paced Oklahoma with 9.9000 or better on bars, beam, and floor. “We work so hard to be able to be like those people, and now we are.”
With Oklahoma’s “every team is a new team” mentality, when asked about the key to this squad, Jordan Bowers was quick to note that the chemistry between them is special (and on display as Bowers, Davis, and Sievers routinely quipped and giggled with each other while Kindler fielded questions). Bowers had a clutch moment in the third rotation on beam when she delivered a 9.9125 despite roars from the crowd for Thomas’ historic 10.0.
“We’re seriously so close. It’s kind of scary,” explained Bowers. “Us being so close, we have so much trust in each other, and that makes us more comfortable in being out there and just putting our all out there.”
“And KJ always says that the closest teams are going to win a national championship,” Davis added.
Whatever the secret to a championship is, Kindler seemingly knows it, as winning a program’s first six titles within a decade looks phenomenal on a Hall of Fame resume. With a top-10 recruiting class and just a handful of routines from this title-winning lineup to replace, there may be no stopping the Sooners anytime soon.
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Article by Brandis Heffner
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