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Sooners finish 2nd to Stanford at MPSF Championship

Apr. 6—Oklahoma's home winning streak, which dated back to March of 2007, came to an end on Saturday at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships.

As the result became final, the team gathered in its area on the southeast corner of the McCasland Field House floor. The Sooners' gymnasts didn't hang their heads and none appeared to be shedding tears.

They weren't jubilant either.

Teammates hugged and patted each other on the back, but it wasn't a celebration.

Oklahoma head coach Mark Williams knew the program's 64-meet winning streak would come to an end at some point. He just didn't want to feel like his team gave it away on a bad day.

"We had a good day, so I'm not sad," the Sooners' coach said. "I'd like to keep winning forever. I like winning as much as anybody."

The Sooners came in second to No. 1 Stanford, but had posted their second-highest team score this season (418.400). They trailed the Cardinal (422.700), winners of the last four national titles, by just 4.300, a big improvement from the 10.650 advantage Stanford had the last time the two teams met this season.

Emre Dodanli won an individual title on the floor exercise while Ignacio Yockers took first on pommel horse and Kelton Christiansen took home the high bar title.

"That was one of our best meets of the year," Williams said. "We put the pressure on Stanford, they just didn't give us an opening."

The Sooners held a narrow lead after the fourth rotation and trailed by just under two points heading into the final event. They suffered their second fall of the meet on high bar and finished the last rotation with a 67.750.

Stanford closed out the meet on still rings and had a fall, but posted a 70.750, the highest team score in the event all day.

"We don't have the huge strength moves that Stanford has," Williams said. "So we had to minimize the mistakes and we had to do very clean and make our performance so that we could run with them on execution. And it was a lot better, so I'll take that as a coach."

The Sooners have been the top vault team in the country, but had several gymnasts stepped out of bounds, which ended up being costly.

Fuzzy Benas finished third in the all-around behind Stanford's Khoi Young and Colt Walker. Over his first five events his lowest score was a 13.900 on floor.

He's been remarkably consistent on the high bar this season, but said he hadn't caught his breath from competing on the parallel bars going into the last rotation. His hand missed the bar on a release and he hit the padded floor hard.

"I can't remember the last time he missed a high bar routine so I was actually surprised with that," Williams said.

Benas said he was angry when he got up from the mat. He told Williams that he was absolutely going to give it another shot.

He immediately started preparing to finish his routine and Williams wasn't going to stop him. Benas completed the routine and scored a season-low 12.500.

The redshirt sophomore finished third on still rings, parallel bars and vault.

"What he did is one of the more difficult skills in the world to do on high bar," Williams said. "For him to pop back up and get in the chalk pool and just be angry ... I like that attitude."

The Sooners will now look ahead to the NCAA Championships which begin April 19 in Columbus, Ohio. They will need to finish in the top three in their session to advance to the Championship Finals on April 20.

Tarik Masri is the sports editor for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing tarik@normantranscript.com