2018 Outlook – Oklahoma Sooners


Natalie Brown
  • Competes BB, FX every week
  • #2 returning BB score (9.910), #4 returning FX score (9.870)
Stefani Catour
  • Competed UB, BB each week in 2017
  • #3 returning BB score (9.880), #4 returning UB score (9.900)
Samantha Craus
  • Competed 1 UB routine in 2017 for 9.850
AJ Jackson
  • Competed VT, FX in every meet in 2017
  • #2 returning FX score (9.960), #3 returning VT score (9.900)
  • Can provide backup UB, BB when needed
Brenna Dowell
  • Competed VT, UB, FX every meet in 2017
  • #2 returning score on VT (9.935), #3 returning score on FX (9.910), UB (9.905)
Ashley Hiller
  • Transfer from Florida
  • Competed 4 FXs, 1 VT in first two years
Nicole Lehrmann
  • Staple of UB, BB lineups in 2017
  • #2 returning score on UB (9.910)
  • 2017 peaks of 10.000 (UB), 9.925 (BB)
Alex Marks
  • Competed VT regularly in 2017 for 9.815 RQS
  • Performed 1 FX in 2016 for 9.700
  • Made final 2017 VT lineup with 9.830 RQS
  • 10.0-start Y1.5 on VT
Maggie Nichols
  • #1 nationally in AA in 2017
  • #1 team score on each event in 2017
  • No RQS lower than 9.955
Brehanna Showers
  • Did not show competition routine in 2017 due to injury
Jordan Draper
  • Empire
  • 12th UB & FX, 2016 JO Nationals, Senior D
Abigail Matthews
  • Cincinnati
  • 5th UB, 2017 JO Nationals, Senior D
Evy Schoepfer
  • Triad
  • 2nd AA, 2017 JO Nationals, Senior E
  • Training 10.0-start Y1.5 on VT
Anastasia Webb
  • IGI
  • 7th AA, 2017 JO Nationals, Senior E
  • 10.0-start Omelianchik on VT
Carly Woodard
  • Fuzion
  • 22nd AA, 2017 JO Nationals, Senior F

Recent History
2017 – 1st
2016 – 1st
2015 – 3rd
2014 – 1st
2013 – 2nd
2012 – 7th
2011 – 3rd
2010 – 2nd

Is it possible to go up from here? We’ll see.

For the two-time defending champions, with three titles in the last four years, the only as-yet-unachieved goal is dynasty status. With another championship this season, Oklahoma would match the standards set by both the recent Florida teams (3 straight titles—2013-2015) and the early 2000s UCLA teams (4 titles in 5 years—2000, 2001, 2003, 2004) and would then be able to set sights on the records of the late 2000s Georgia teams (5 straight titles—2005-2009) and the early 1980s Utah teams (6 straight titles—1981-1986). Things be getting historic ’round here.

The challenge facing the Sooners will be the loss of 7 routines from last season’s final 24. The roster is poised to be able to replace those routines without too much angst, but the lingering question is whether those replacements will result in a slight dip in scoring potential, making Oklahoma more vulnerable to an improving team like Florida.

Lineup locks
Nichols (9.955), Dowell (9.935), Jackson (9.900), Degouveia (9.830)
Lineup options
Webb (FR), Schoepfer (FR), Showers (-), Marks (9.815), Lehrmann (9.812 in 2016), Catour (-)

Vault was the only event where Oklahoma did not finish ranked #1 in the country last season, and preseason evidence suggests the team will improve there in 2018. The big 3 Yurchenko 1.5s—Nichols, Dowell, and Jackson—all return and will once again do the heavy lifting for what should be weekly 9.900s. Degouveia added a fourth Y1.5 to the slate in the middle of last season, a vault that was typically a little more 9.850 than Oklahoma would prefer, but one that has continued to develop and looks excellent so far in preseason. Expect it to be back.

In 2017, Oklahoma went with fulls in the first two spots. This season, the Sooners are looking to add Webb‘s Omelianchik to the mix for a fifth 10.0 start and are currently working on a Y1.5 for Schoepfer in an effort to achieve Mission Six 10.0s. That may still be a slight reach, at least at the beginning of the year, but we’ll see at least five.

Keep in mind Lehrmann, who is vaulting again this season, as well as Showers, who did not compete last year but is in contention for multiple lineups this season. Showers has a huge full that can score right up with most 1.5s and could just as easily make the lineup as some of those 10.0s. Marks also made the final six last season with her full, and Catour has been showing a full in preseason that could be a very believable 9.825 backup.

In all, whether it’s six 10.0s or a pitiful little five, Oklahoma scoring something like 9.850, 9.875, 9.900, 9.900, 9.925, 9.950 for a 49.550 looks almost pedestrian for this lineup, one that has a real shot to be the #1-ranked vaulting team in the country.

Lineup locks
Nichols (9.960), Lehrmann (9.910), Dowell (9.905)
Lineup options
Catour (9.900), Showers (-), Webb (FR), Jackson (9.875 in 2016), Craus (9.850), Marks (-), Matthews (FR)

Like on vault, Oklahoma returns an essential core of weekly 9.9s in Nichols, Lehrmann, and Dowell. We’ll see many 10s come from that group this season. But, they won’t be able to maintain last season’s weekly 49.5+ standard all by themselves. Catour should help (only on Oklahoma does someone return with a 9.900 RQS and you go, “She might make the lineup”), but new sets must also be developed to replace the two lost scores from Wofford and Capps.

The frontrunner is Webb, a gymnast with the most lovely Shap 1/2 who will be in contention for 9.9s when it’s a good double-front day. Beyond her, we’re all rooting for Showers to make it into the six solely because of the Shushunova. We’ve earned that skill. (I do, however, worry about the orphan giant 1/2 that’s needed to get her facing the right way for the bail.) Best-case scenario, those six are probably the lineup, but remember Jackson and how she had to fill in on bars in 2016 and we were all, “Oklahoma will be terrible on bars this year because Capps and Jackson have to go!!!!” and then they were both amazing? The team didn’t need her on bars in 2017, but she can still go and can still score well. Marks is also attempting to pull a Capps and suddenly become a bars star as an upperclasswoman, so she’s a darkhorse to sneak into the group. And of course there’s Craus, who finally got to compete her first bars routine last season and would make the lineup on most teams.

Oklahoma doesn’t necessarily have an obvious replacement for Wofford, someone who will come into the lineup for weekly 9.950s, but both Webb and Showers are full of potential and should ensure that the Sooners don’t experience much of a hit in the bars scores.

Lineup locks
Nichols (9.955), Brown (9.910), Catour (9.880), Lehrmann (9.855)
Lineup options
Webb (FR), Showers (-), Jackson (9.825), Schoepfer (FR), Draper (FR)

It’s Oklahoma and beam. It’s going to be more than fine. If you’re wondering who your new Oklahoma beam obsessions will be this year, the answers are Showers and Webb. You may notice a theme developing in that regard. When the lord closes a Capp, he turns on a Shower? (I apologize.) Showers has a switch leap + straight jump 1/1 + Korbut combination you’ll be hearing a lot about, and Webb has quite lovely leap ability. They should fit in nicely.

Of course, Nichols will lead the way, as on every event, with Brown and Lehrmann taking on a little bit more of that back-of-the-lineup scoring responsibility this season. Throw in Catour, the #4 score from last season, and you’ve basically got your six. As on bars, it’s a question of whether Oklahoma will be able to conjure a brand-new auto-9.950. But an auto-9.900? Yeah, that seems very realistic.

Schoepfer is also very proficient on beam and could get a spot, and Jackson will always be there as a usable backup who can compete against TWU when the others are getting a break. Beam is Jackson’s weak event, but that means she only gets 9.825. Like a loser.

Eight isn’t actually a ton of options. That’s not the full extent of the possibilities—others could conceivably act as backups—but there are also several people on this roster who will never do beam, which limits things somewhat. (We don’t have to talk about Brenna and beam until next year, but then we do have to talk about it because of the long tradition of gymnasts becoming beamers in their senior year). Still, Oklahoma has enough choices to continue being Oklahoma on beam.

Lineup locks
Nichols (9.965), Jackson (9.960), Dowell (9.910), Brown (9.870)
Lineup options
Degouveia (-), Webb (FR), Showers (-), Schoepfer (FR), Marks (9.700 in 2016), Draper (FR), Hiller (8.950 in 2017)

The big 3 on vault act as the big 3 on floor as well, with Nichols, Jackson, and Dowell always in the running for at least 9.900, if not 9.950. What separated Oklahoma from the other major floor teams last season, however, was not the big ending scores (all the best teams can finish 9.900, 9.925, 9.950). Rather, it was the first three in the lineup, who were (almost) as likely to reach 9.900 as the final three. Finding a couple new routines to maintain that standard is essential for Oklahoma in 2018.

Brown will be there again. She’s not an overtly powerful floor worker, but she maintains her form in twisting and is very proficient at showing clear control in the step forward, even on front-landing twisting skills. That ability makes her more likely to stay in the 9.9s. Oklahoma doesn’t necessarily have a new BIG TUMBLING FORCE on the team this year, so the focus with the remaining two spots will be who can stay the cleanest.

Schoepfer did have a DLO in JO, but it doesn’t necessarily translate directly to NCAA. I was still thinking of her for this lineup because she’s a strong tumbler, but have we seen any floor from her in preseason? If not Schoepfer, keep in mind Degouveia, who opens with a front double full, and of course Webb and Showers. Both are opening with double pikes as of right now and could very well perform cleanly enough to get into the lineup.

Oklahoma will not have the biggest floor lineup in the country this year. Others will have more (and more powerful) E passes in the opening halves of their lineups, but that’s not necessarily anything new for Oklahoma throughout its history. Becoming a team that can get 49.6 in Super Six again will be about making sure those couple new routines have the landing control and leg form to avoid 9.825itis.

When it comes to goals for Oklahoma, it’s all about the win. After two championships, second place would be a weak result. Is winning title again this year possible? More than possible. Likely? Sure. Go with it. As likely as it was last year? Not necessarily.

It very easy to see how Oklahoma becomes better than last year on vault, but on the other events, the outlook is more about how to keep pace with last year’s scores than improve on them. Now, if Oklahoma gets better on vault and stays the same on the other three, that’s a wildly impressive team that will win the title again. But if we do see Oklahoma regress slightly or struggle to come up with same-quality replacements for those Capps scores, for Wofford’s bars, it opens the door for Florida and LSU to break the Sooner dominance.

8 thoughts on “2018 Outlook – Oklahoma Sooners”

  1. Obviously the hardest (impossible) score to replace will be the Capps beam score and even the Capps floor score will be tough but the rest should be more doable. One thing is I think Lehrman’s bars scores will go up this season compared to last, as I don’t think she was necessarily getting the scores she always deserved in the first half of the season last year, but now she has built more of a name for herself (you know, what with having tied with 5 other people for the national title) and if the preseason is any indication, she will have a later lineup spot to help too. I also like what appears to be the strategy of Catour as beam leadoff – she was my pick as the most solid last year.

    1. Totally agree. I think Oklahoma will be really tough to beat even if Florida has a deeper more exciting roster. Oklahoma is just so good at not just hitting under pressure, but sticking every landing with perfect form and routine construction.

  2. I honestly think Oklahoma will run away with it again this year. It feels like all of the attention has been on Florida’s freshman class (where there are still plenty of question marks), while Webb and Showers have quietly looked amazing AF. I don’t know how they do it, but OU gets the most out of every single gymnast that walks through the door. They’re consistently in shape, avoid major injuries, and tend to hit under pressure with almost zero built-in deductions. As long as they continue to do that, better teams on paper will struggle to keep up.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Oklahoma is the favorite in my mind until someone actually beats them.

      Florida looks great on paper but this is only Jenny’s third year as a head coach and she’ll have to prove she knows how to win a title when it counts. I thought she got a fairly good performance out of her team in Super Six last year, definitely something to build on. LSU will also need to show they can put it together when it counts.

      Alabama and UCLA both have issues with consistency. Dana and Val experiment with their lineups so much (which I find interesting) that the team doesn’t end up finding a rhythm by the end of the season.

      Utah seems quite focused and cohesive this year but unlike the other five teams, I’m not sure they have the scoring potential to keep up.

      I think that KJ could take the rosters of Florida, Alabama, LSU, or UCLA and win with any of them (in addition to her team). OU’s coaching staff gives them an edge and I don’t see Florida as a favorite for that reason.

  3. I love KJ’s coaching style. She has big names like Brenna and Maggie but doesn’t seem to use them as a crutch or act like they are any more crucial to the team’s success as any of the other girls. Their lineups are very cohesive and her freshmen never seem to look like freshmen. Recruiting a lot of those diamond in the rough L10s seems to cut back on the injuries in her lineup that a lot of the schools with former elite recruits do suffer. They will be extremely hard to beat.

    1. Oklahoma finished third in 2015 with a 197.525. They counted a fall on beam in prelims that year, but still broke 197 and finished first in that session.

      But yeah, meltdown. Totally.

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