NORMAN, Okla. -- Setting out to become simply one of the final six women's gymnastics teams left standing, Oklahoma nearly came home with its first national championship last season.
Finishing second in the country has a way of changing what seems possible for a program that never before had made it to the NCAA finals.
"I have that same notion that they have now, that it's realistic for us to win," Sooners coach K.J. Kindler said. "I guess in my daydreams, I'll be honest, when I'm sitting in my office or we're working on something, in my daydreams, I see that happening.
"I don't know that I did that before."
Despite losing five seniors, including three All-Americans, Oklahoma has its highest seed ever heading into this week's NCAA gymnastics meet in Cleveland. The Sooners are seeded third, behind top-seeded Alabama and defending champion UCLA.
Oregon State, Florida, Michigan, Georgia, Utah, Nebraska, Arkansas, Illinois and Kent State round out the field when competition starts Friday.
Utah makes a record-setting 36th-consecutive appearance at the national championships, the only gymnastics team to qualify for all
30 NCAA championships after making the AIAW nationals the six previous years
Utah is in the evening semifinal. The championships have been pushed back a day from their usual schedule, something coach Greg Marsden isn't thrilled about.
The Utes will likely compete three all-arounders at nationals: freshman Corrie Lothrop (39.50 high), junior Stephanie McAllister (39.475 high) and senior Jacquelyn Johnson (39.225 high).
Senior two-time All-American Kyndal Robarts (knee) and sophomore Fumina Kobayashi (foot) will miss the championships due to injuries.
"We hung in there and didn't beat ourselves (to qualify for the Super Six) and it worked, which it has more often than not this year," Marsden said.
Last year, Oklahoma reached the No. 1 ranking and made the postseason for the seventh straight year but still headed to the NCAA meet having never made it through the semifinals, when the field gets cut from 12 to six. That barrier was finally broken, and the Sooners went on to a runner-up finish.
"I don't think any of us looked at it like a letdown or a failure, or anything like that," sophomore Natasha Kelley said. "We had worked so hard and our main goal was just to make the 'Super Six.' I think that once we did that, we were all just so excited and from that point, it was kind of however we finish now is however we finish because we accomplished our main goal."
The Sooners women share a gym with a men's team that has won five national titles in the past decade and posted the top qualifying score at the men's semifinals Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.
The trophies sit on shelves in a shared team meeting room and in the lobby of their remodeled practice gym, along with a picture of the men's team meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House after one of those championships.
* UTAH NOTES: For the second-straight year, Utah is the women's attendance champion for all sports. The Utes, who averaged 13,503 to their home meets this season, edged Tennessee women's basketball (13,078) for the second year in a row.
Last year, Utah won the attendance title by averaging an NCAA gymnastics-record 14,213 fans per meet in the Huntsman Center. Utah
is the only team other than basketball to win a women's attendance championship.