FORT WORTH, Texas — Baker Mayfield has made a habit of maintaining an underdog mentality, even when he’s been on top of the world.
Mayfield’s mindset is one of OU’s women’s gymnastics coach, KJ Kindler, who wanted his team to reflect in the NCAA Championships.
The Sooners entered the No. 1 competition in the nation, having won three of the last five titles and finished second the other two times, but Kindler preached to his team that they are the underdogs entering the championships.
With the help of former football coach Bob Stoops, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback spoke to the Sooners on Wednesday night. Then OU took to the Dickies Arena floor for Thursday’s semifinals with Mayfield’s “wake up feeling unsafe” mentality.
The Sooners struggled at first and then gradually got stronger as the day progressed, eventually posting a 198.1125 to win Thursday’s semifinal and advance to Saturday’s four-team final.
Utah, which finished at 197.7125, also advanced. In the second semifinal, Florida and Auburn overtook Michigan and Missouri.
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“He told us to have faith in ourselves and he told us to wake up feeling unsafe,” senior gymnast Olivia Trautman said of Mayfield, “to trust him, and we are Oklahoma and we know how to do our stuff and just to believe in ourselves.”
After a somewhat shaky start on vault, with only one score of 9.9 or better in the event, the Sooners rebounded with a solid performance on uneven bars, marked by Audrey Davis’ 9.95 on point anchor to put the OR in front. utes for what turned out to be for good.
“It’s important for me to always be proud of myself because it’s not easy,” said Davis, who was also a late addition to the jump roster after Kindler replaced Davis with Danae Fletcher. “No matter what I do, I do it with a smile because I enjoy the moment.”
OU then took control on beam after Jenna Dunn’s landing went sideways for a 9.7875 after what had been a solid routine.
But Trautman – wearing Mayfield’s signature phrase on his hand – followed with a 9.9125 to get the Sooners back on track, before Carly Woodard and Ragan Smith closed hard. Woodard posted a 9.9125 and Smith a 9.9250 which not only kept OU ahead but all but ensured the Sooners would win the semifinal.
But the Sooners weren’t finished, tying their season high with a 49.675 rushing in the final rotation to end the competition.
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At the coaches’ meeting the day before their meetings this season, Kindler and his staff choose a “legend of the day” to highlight a lesson for the meeting.
On Wednesday, Kindler and the staff quickly settled on Mayfield.
“Because I always think he has this amazing attitude about everything he does,” Kindler said. “He’s being shameless himself and he comes in and he’s not afraid to say, ‘Hey, we want to win this thing,’ and I think that’s OK.
“I think it’s fair to say you might not win, but you’re going to do everything you can and the urge, the heat inside, it’s going to be there. I knew it would give them that vibe and that swagger. It’s a young band and they need that.
However, the Sooners didn’t FaceTime Michael Jordan or Mia Hamm — the two-round legends of regionals.
They got Mayfield on short notice, however, with help from Stoops.
Kindler texted Stoops asking if he could help his team connect with Mayfield on short notice.
It wasn’t long before Stoops called Kindler, first telling him good luck, then that Mayfield was there.
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The Sooners gathered on the boardroom floor, as student coach Maggie Nichols held her phone so the team could hear and see Mayfield’s fiery message.
Kindler and Mayfield didn’t have time to coordinate specific points to target, but Mayfield pulled through.
“Said exactly what I wanted to say – and a few swear words,” Kindler said. “He just did, and I trusted him.”
The former OU quarterback also showed them his tattoo that reads “BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.”
Mayfield’s message worked on Thursday, and Kindler hopes the Sooners adopt a similar mentality on Saturday
“No one expects us to win this competition. That’s what I believe,” Kindler said. “I think we can do it. It’s not a Jedi spirit thing. I really think there are very good teams and I understand that people lean in another way. I totally understand. But this team has heart. They have the ability to do that. »
Saturday noon at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas (ABC)