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2017 Freshman Preview: Oklahoma

Don’t freak out, but Oklahoma 2017 probably should be better than Oklahoma 2016. Let’s find out why.

Returning Routines – Oklahoma
VAULT
Jackson – 9.940
Jones – 9.880
Capps – 9.875
Marks – 9.835
Lehrmann – 9.800
BARS
Wofford – 9.950
Catour – 9.925
Capps – 9.920
Lehrmann – 9.915
Jackson – 9.875
BEAM
Capps – 9.955
Brown – 9.910
Lehrmann – 9.875
Jones – 9.860
Catour – 9.850
Jackson – 9.800
Lovan – 9.665
FLOOR
Jackson – 9.920
Capps – 9.915
Jones – 9.910
Brown – 9.890
Marks – 9.700
Lovan – 9.413

Oops, you’re already set. Congratulations.

But wait. There are also freshman (WHAT?!?!) and the return of Brenna Dowell. Dowell was late-lineup on three events during her freshman year and will be expected to return to those positions in 2017. Memories of her NCAA floor tend to be shadowed by that high-profile OOB in Super Six, but she got 9.9s all year long.

The question is beam. We’ll get into this more in the December team previews, but Dowell did not make Oklahoma’s beam lineup in 2015 because of Brenna, and beam, and terrifying, and they didn’t need her. The Sooners probably won’t need her once again in 2017, but we’ll see if Dowell can manage that personal triumph or if we’ll have to wait for one of those irresistible “she finally figured out beam in her senior year” storylines. She did hit beam both days of Olympic Trials. I don’t think you guys saw any of those routines on TV, but Brenna casually had the best competition of her life by a thousand percent that second day of trials. We were all like, “WHO IS THIS???”

Oh, and there’s a little nobody named Maggie Nichols.

I won’t spend too much time on Maggie because…like you don’t know what her gymnastics looks like.

Alright, just one.

There.

Nichols will be vaulting the 1.5 this year, has retained Ray-Pak-Shap 1/2-Double layout for her bars composition, and is continuing to work the piked full-in on floor. Obviously, we all expect her to feature at the back of the lineup on all four events and hit the ground running with twenty 9.9s per second. Those are high, but also correct, expectations. That’s what she should be doing and what the team needs her to do if a national championship is going to be a thing.

Alright, just two.

First day of full bars and beam routines! @callmeswags and @stefanicatour were 🔥🔥🔥! #committo3

A video posted by Oklahoma Women's Gymnastics (@ou_wgymnastics) on

There.

Nichols’ overall gymnastics should translate very well to NCAA, particularly her extension in floor leaps and general inherent stickitude. She even seems to be getting weaned off those upsetting leg-staggers on tumbling passes if Oklahoma’s training videos are anything to go by. I assume a lot of that has to do with not having to stick anymore. When you’re allowed to take a controlled step back, you don’t have to aggressively stagger in the air in the hope of sufficiently preparing for a stick.

Shockingly, this class also contains two other freshmen, both top JO gymnasts and more-than-realistic college all-arounders. The legend of Oklahoma’s ninja Level 10s continues. The problem for them is that Oklahoma could easily slot Nichols and Dowell exactly into the seven spots vacated by Scaman and Kmieciak in last year’s lineups, change nothing else, and be completely fine. The others will have to battle for the one—or maybe two—questionable, possibly open spots on each event, though I do see places where they can win those battles.

Brehanna Showers hasn’t competed too much in the last couple years after tearing her ACL in 2014, but her name is also a complete sentence (and just good hygiene advice), so she has that going for her. When an appropriate response to someone’s name is “I’m glad,” then you’ve already kind of won life. Brehanna Showers. I’m glad.

Mostly, Shushunova.

Freshman update! @bre_showers is killing it! #committo3

A video posted by Oklahoma Women's Gymnastics (@ou_wgymnastics) on

So that’s fun. Bars isn’t her best event (in fact, she has competed it just once since her ACL injury, and for an 8), but also Shushunova. Shushunova takes away 8.

Rather, Showers’ best scores in JO came almost exclusively on vault because of a high, laid-out full that she could stick like no one’s business. Oklahoma will likely choose to back-load that lineup with 1.5s, but if Showers has that full on track again, she could play a similar role to what we saw Jones do in 2016: sticking a full early in the lineup to force the scores to go high from the start.

Based on the above video, her beam looks…exactly like the 12 other Oklahoma beam routines that could come into the lineup and score a 9.850. So why not?

I haven’t seen any of the floor routines from Showers post-ACL, but she did show some tumbling pop when she competed at the Nastia in 2014. It’s not the difficulty that most of the OU gymnasts will have, but the amplitude was there.

The third freshman, Jade Degouveia (we’ll get confident with the spelling in time), defies expectations a bit because she looks like a fragile petal of a bars and beam specialist but actually tends to excel on the power pieces. She works a double Arabian on floor, which she has continued to show in preseason training videos, and any weakness on her Yurchenko full seems to be in having too much power to control the landing.

I’ve noticed the leg form can get a little ragged on twisting skills and occasionally on bars, though she already has those excellent pointed-toe, completely vertical handstands that are the hallmark of Oklahoma’s bars work.

All four of these routines could become something. The question is whether you’re going to beat out Natalie Brown or Charity Jones or Stefani Catour for that spot.

Also, it’s Oklahoma. Having expectations about which events people will compete is a fool’s game. Remember last year when Chayse Capps was just like, “My best event is bars now” even though it was Chayse Capps and bars? Yeah.

Have fun coming up with lineups!

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