Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Oklahoma Seeks Third Straight NCAA Gymnastics Title

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Oklahoma Seeks Third Straight NCAA Gymnastics Title

Article excerpt

Valorie Kondos Field was in her 14th season as the gymnastics coach at UCLA in 2004 when she was approached by the coach from Georgia after the Bruins had won their fourth national championship in five years.

The message: She was tired of losing to UCLA.

"That put the fear of God in me because I knew she was going to do something different," said Kondos Field. "She changed her whole program the next year and won five championships in a row."

Those types of runs have been common in women's gymnastics since the sport's first year under the NCAA umbrella in 1982.

Six schools have won the 36 championships while the rest of the country has lagged well behind.

Those six -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, UCLA and Utah -- will be in the 12-team field competing for the 2018 national title Friday and Saturday at Chaifetz Arena.

Florida didn't become the fifth team to win a title until 2013, and Oklahoma became No. 6 when it tied with the Gators the following year. The Sooners are now putting together a typical gymnastics championship run as they try to the win for the third consecutive year.

Nebraska is one of those teams trying to get to the next level. The Cornhuskers are making their fifth consecutive appearance in the national championships. They reached the Super Six finals only once in that time.

Coach Dan Kendig, who has been at Nebraska since 1994, hopes the time is near that more teams like his become true title contenders.

"I feel like it's going to happen, just like forever there were four teams and then Oklahoma and Florida broke through," he said. "LSU has been knocking on the door year in and year out. The others that are here, we're all in the same boat -- maybe a step behind.

"At some point someone is going to do it and when it happens it will be great for the sport. When the fifth team broke through it was great for the sport, and there are teams out there with the capability."

Georgia leads all programs with 10 championships followed by Utah with nine, Alabama and UCLA with six and Oklahoma and Florida with three. OU and Florida tied in 2013.

LSU is the team that has had the most near-misses, having reached the championships 28 times with one second-place finish, one third and one fourth. …

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