The Oklahoma men’s gymnastics team has cruised through the regular season almost unnoticed. Despite starting the year as the No. 1 team and carrying that bullseye without being beaten, they head into the postseason relatively unknown.
That could be about to change with each step the Sooners take. And it started Saturday when they took home the MPSF Conference Championships in Colorado Springs.
“I think we are looking very well,” senior Danny Berardini said before the meet. “After our last regular season meet, we closed out the season undefeated. We’ve been preparing a lot for this conference championship. We’ve prepared up to the point that I feel confident we can go into a conference championship meet and win another conference championship.”
The Sooners should have felt confident. They have claimed the championship four years in a row. Upperclassmen like Berardini have never known what it’s like to not be called conference champions.
“That freshman year, when we won that first one, I was looking at the team down the road, I said we can win every year,” Berardini said. “We have a senior laden team with seven seniors. Being able to win all four conference champions for these seniors would be pretty special.”
The Sooners’ 446.100 finished well ahead of No. 3 Stanford with a 436.700, followed by No. 9 California (427.150) and No. 10 Air Force (425.650). The 2014 championship is the 21st conference title in program history and 12th in the last 15 years under head coach Mark Williams.
“We started a little slow and were shaky there, but floor got us back on track; we were awesome,” Williams said. “We got ourselves on a roll there, settled down, and the guys did a great job on pommel horse which was pivotal because it could have gone either way.”
Three Sooners were awarded individual conference titles including Raymond White on floor (15.500), Michael Squires on still rings (16.300), and Kanji Oyama on vault (15.300). Oklahoma has now boasted at least one conference champion each of the last 31 years dating back to 1984.
“We’ve done everything we can do at this point,” OU coach Mark Williams said. “Setting an NCAA scoring record, going undefeated. But all that doesn’t matter until you get to the postseason. Everybody remembers, are you conference champion and did you win a national championship? So I think we have put ourselves in a really good place. The important stuff now is in front of us. We have to keep our composure throughout.”
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