Oklahoma captures 5th women’s gymnastics title

FORT WORTH, Texas — Oklahoma captured its fifth NCAA women’s gymnastics title Saturday, rallying from last after the first rotation to the top spot at the end behind a stellar performance from junior Ragan Smith.

The Sooners posted a team score of 198.200, just ahead of Florida at 198.075. Utah finished third at 197.750 while Auburn and reigning Olympic champion Sunisa Lee finished off its best season in program history by finishing fourth.

A year after finishing a narrow second to Michigan, the Sooners returned to the top by surging after a so-so performance on floor exercise left them trailing. Oklahoma responded by posting the best scores on each of the final three events, including a steely set on balance beam as Florida closed the gap on floor exercise a few feet away.

Florida senior and NCAA all-around champion Trinity Thomas posted the meet’s only perfect 10 with a brilliant performance on floor to bring the Gators within a tenth of a point.

The buzz from Thomas’ score sent a jolt through the crowd and with the music blaring, Smith hopped onto the beam and calmly delivered a steady and stoic set, seemingly immune to the stakes. The 2017 USA Gymnastics all-around champion raced toward her teammates after sticking her dismount. When her score of 9.9625 — which included 10s from two of the six judges — the Sooners erupted after realizing it was enough to bring home a championship they just missed last season.

Lee, the first Olympic all-around gold medalist to compete collegiately, finished off her freshman season in style. Her all-around total of 36.250 was second-best of the day behind Thomas, just as it was during Thursday’s semifinals.

Lee’s future is unknown. The 19-year-old plans to return to elite competition, though when that may be is still unknown. With the Paris 2024 Olympics just over two years away, it’s likely to be sooner rather than later.

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