Competing at the University of Minnesota’s Maturi Pavilion for the first time, Oklahoma sophomore Maggie Nichols felt right at home on Saturday.
Nichols, who grew up in Little Canada and attended Roseville High School, finished with the top all-around score of 39.775 to help the Sooners, the two-time defending NCAA champions, win the six-team regional in front of a sellout crowd of 4,728.
The Sooners, who had a team score of 198.000, and runner-up Kentucky, which had a 197.050, advanced to the NCAA Championships, which will be held April 20-21 in St. Louis. Denver finished third (196.275) and the host Gophers fourth (196.100).
Nichols, who competed for the Twin City Twisters club team and attended Gophers women’s gymnastics meets as a youth, opened the meet with an eventual-winning score of 9.975 in the floor exercise and closed out her meet in style with a flawless performance on the balance beam.
Her perfect 10.0 in that event was her seventh perfect score of the season. It was her fourth 10 this season on beam.
Nichols, who was the NCAA co-champion on the uneven bars — with a score of 9.95 — last season as a freshman, also had two 9.9s, one in bars, the other in vault.
“It was so fun today,” said Nichols. “The crowd was special. I could have done a little better in the bars.”
The Gophers were led by Lexy Ramler, who advanced to the NCAA Championships with a strong all-around showing. Ramler, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, had a score of 39.5 for fifth place. Ramler closed out her meet with a 9.925 on the balance beam — second behind Nichols’ perfect score.
“I wasn’t paying attention to the scores,” Ramler said. “I was just thinking what’s the best I can do for my team.”
Gophers coach Jenny Hansen said Ramler “has been so consistent for us. I’m really proud of her. She thrived today. She likes this atmosphere. She’s looking forward to the opportunity to represent the university at the NCAA meet. She can hang with anyone.”
Ramler and Denver’s Lynzee Brown, who had a 39.525 for fourth, advanced to the NCAA as the top two all-arounders not on the two advancing teams. Oklahoma’s Anastasia Webb and Kentucky’s Alex Hyland tied for second with a 39.55 all-around score.
Gophers sophomore Paige Williams tied for second in the floor exercise with a career-high 9.95.
Denver’s Maddie Karr, a sophomore from Stillwater, finished 10th in the all-around (39.225) while Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Tori Erickson, a senior from Woodbury, finished 14th (38.25).
Iowa State’s Meaghan Sievers advanced to the NCAA meet by winning the vault with a score of 9.925.