Sunday, December 9, 2012
NCAA Fever: A Look at the 2013 Boomer Sooners
(Apologies for the lack of individual links...I cannot figure out the new youtube playlists...there are wonderful videos, I just can't figure out how to share them individually.)
The Oklahoma Boomer Sooners performed consistently at their intrasquad yesterday and look prepared to defeat the Gym Dogs in Athens during the first weekend in January. After a season that unraveled with injuries and left them just short of the Super Six, the team looks prepared to rebound and add a little panache. While there is no way to replace the personality, leadership or anchor scores Megan Ferguson brought last season, the team is looking stronger overall and added much-needed strength and power to the vault and floor lineup.
Beam appears to be a super steady event for the team. KJ has her team prepared to do extremely well in the regular season. The girls look trained, confident, consistent and ready to be extremely sturdy on beam. Taylor Spears looks infinitely stronger than she has ever looked and after being a supporting player over the course of the last two seasons, she looks prepared to step into a leadership role. One thing the Sooners can do to really push for the bigger scores is add another highlight skill or two to a routine like Taylor Spears' and put her in an anchor position and then have KJ pimp out a girl or two to the media to let everyone know they are the beam team. That would be obnoxious and very Suzanne Yoculan, but it would get the job done. Perception is everything. These beam routines are going to deliver strong 9.85s and a few 9.9s across the board, but there is always the fear of 9.85s becoming a 9.8s or a 9.75s in the post season and decimating a team's advantage. Difficulty wise, they are on par with their competitors. They may not have the muscle of Florida to throw an abundance of double back dismounts, but they are going to beat them on form, execution and style.
One of the biggest improvements this year is the floor choreography. For the past two years, KJ has been loving the beats and doing all sorts of squatting and low-to-the-ground moves that have emphasized just how strong and muscly her gymnasts are. While I applaud the fitness, I like to remember that gymnasts are actual feminine beings from time to time, no matter how rare that may be after a strong conditioning session. Madison Mooring is still rocking the squats (even on beam), which has to be a subconscious move on the part of KJ Kindler. As an aspiring manipulative woman, I applaud her. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Val took a page from her book and had the girls running in place between tumbling passes. The Sooners may not have the cult following of the Bruins, but I do find elements of the choreography far more interesting and unexpected. The routines are more crowd pleasing and engaging, which should help. Unfortunately, there is not a video of Lara Alright's routine, yet I've been told it is wonderful.
Kayla Nowak has really stepped up into the role of a senior and looks stronger and more determined. For the past three years, it has bothered me that a capable girl from IGI hasn't been in the vault lineup. Oklahoma has not had a strong all around presence in years, but Kayla could easily rack up a few dual meet titles should she stay in the vault lineup. Names are important in collegiate gymnastics. Names equal scores (how else did Jamie Dantzscer ever win an AA title with that shaky ass beam routine?) I am currently living for the leap out of Kayla's second pass and am told there is a signature snarky expression to boot.
Oklahoma's biggest improvement is on vault and floor, where they lost valuable tenths over the past few seasons. They do not have the tradition or history with judges that other teams have (or close friendships with their coach), and they need to fight for every score in a way that other teams do not. Haley Scaman is helping immensely in this area. She has been a consistent 1.5 twisting yurchenko vaulter for some team. Her line and fitness have actually improved in college and she appears ready to be a capable anchor on floor as well. Haley looks ready to bring in the 9.95s needed to erase a bout with nerves by others during NCAA prelims. Someone always gets tight. Counting one 9.7 is doable, counting two or three is deadly. One top score is never enough. Keeley Kmieciak is getting it done and could set up a huge score for Scaman with back-to-back stuck vaults. Overall, the amplitude and dynamics appear improved.
On bars, Brie Olson can still stick a full twisting double layout off bars like no other. Though there aren't many videos of bars online, the team did perform well. As usual, KJ's love and appreciation for toe point during recruiting is keeping the skills events looking lovely.
Look for a team quite capable of defeating the Gym Dogs to open their season. It is always difficult to win on the road in the arena of a storied program, but this team looks to have the preparation and fitness than some of Athens' finest simply do not.