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OU women's gymnastics: Maggie Nichols takes all-around title as Sooners advance easily to NCAA final

OU's Maggie Nichols scored a 39.7125 Friday night in Fort Worth, Texas, to capture the NCAA all-around title. [OU ATHLETICS PHOTO]
OU's Maggie Nichols scored a 39.7125 Friday night in Fort Worth, Texas, to capture the NCAA all-around title. [OU ATHLETICS PHOTO]

FORT WORTH, Texas — Maggie Nichols hopes for a second consecutive all-around championship looked dead in the water just a couple weeks ago.

But Oklahoma’s star gymnast got a chance and took advantage of it, wrapping up a hectic two weeks of preparation by taking that title Friday night at Fort Worth Convention Center.

Nichols shared the title in the vault and finished in the top seven in every event to beat out Minnesota’s Lexy Ramler and UCLA’s Kyla Ross 39.7125-39.6625 for the all-around championship.

In doing so, she helped her team advance to Saturday’s inaugural “Four on the Floor” and broke a tie with Kelly Garrison to become the winningest gymnast in program history. The Sooners will compete against UCLA, LSU and Denver.

It was Jordan Draper’s injury in the floor exercise at regionals in early April that opened the door to Nichols’ all-around return.

“We had to figure out what we were going to do,” Sooners coach K.J. Kindler said. “Maggie was getting better and better. She had vaulted in regionals on back-to-back nights because we wanted to make sure she could do this and when this situation came up, we decided to get creative and re-choreograph her routine and make her an option.

“You never make Maggie Nichols just an option.”

Nichols hadn’t competed in the floor since Jan. 11 after suffering a broken foot that had been a nagging issue ever since.

There were still elements of her floor routine that were too painful or impossible to do with her injury, so the routine had to be adjusted, going from a three-pass routine to one with two, though the start value is still a 10.0.

“I was really confident that I could hit it,” Nichols said.

And she did, with a 9.925 anchoring the final rotation for the Sooners.

It was just in the last few days before nationals that Nichols and Kindler decided she would compete.

While Kindler said having Nichols competing in the all-around wasn’t a major goal, Nichols said it had been something she’d been working toward.

“This is the most important meet and we want to take that national championship as a team, and we have that potential,” Nichols said. “So that was my main focus — to get healthy.”

With the individual accolades out of the way — Oklahoma’s Brenna Dowell tied for the title in the floor exercise — the Sooners now set their sights firmly on trying to win the program’s fourth national title, especially after last season’s heartbreaking 0.0375 loss to UCLA.

“That was a little bit of a heartbreaker,” Dowell said. “You know it’s going to come down to that close again and just to be there so you don’t have that is important.”

Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›