Top-ranked Florida (197.575) edged Oklahoma (197.375) to win the NCAA women’s gymnastics championship hosted by UCLA in April. While the Sooners fell just short of reaching their ultimate goal of claiming a coveted national title, their memorable postseason performance reflected their team slogan “beyond reason” in terms of chasing big dreams and unlimited expectations.
OU freshman and Riverside-Brookfield High School alumna Haley Scaman certainly bought into the Sooners’ spirited attitude against top-notch competition.
In day two of the team finals at UCLA’s legendary Pauley Pavilion, Scaman scored a 9.875 as the Sooners’ floor routine anchor to push OU past two-time defending national champion Alabama for second place overall behind Florida.
“On the first night [in preliminaries], we almost didn’t advance to the Super Six,” Scaman said. “Once we qualified for the Super Six [top six teams advance to final day competition], we just decided to go all out, do our best and have fun. Our attitude reflected our team motto, ‘beyond reason.'”
As a freshman, Scaman emerged early as a “triple threat” gymnast for OU with career-highs in the vault (9.925), parallel bars (9.9) and floor (9.975). The 5-foot-3 gymnast also showed remarkable durability, competing in every meet for the Sooners during the season.
Guided by head coach K.J. Kindler, OU has finished as national runner-up in 2013 and 2010. The program has advanced to the NCAA championships every year since 2004 and claims 79 conference champions, 64 All-Americans and four individual champions in its storied tradition. Within the Big 12, OU has won five conference titles over the past six years.
Looking ahead to next spring, OU is focused on taking that final step to becoming a national champion.
“Our main goal is always to win a national championship,” Scaman said. “We lost three seniors and had some injuries this season, but we’re bringing in a very talented class of five freshmen.
“When I was younger, training was always about pushing myself. Now, my goals are more team-oriented rather than personal. I’m focused on doing whatever I can to help my team perform well.”
With a year of experience under her belt, Scaman appears poised for a superb sophomore campaign. This season, the Riverside resident notched the following accolades: Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, Big 12 floor champion, NCAA regional co-champion on floor and Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team, among several other honors.
Her OU teammate and close friend, Keeley Kmieciak marvels at Scaman’s ability.
“Haley is kind of a quiet girl and she comes off as this little tiny thing [in gymnastics],” said Kmieciak, who attended Naperville Central, “but when she gets into her routines, wow. She’s so explosive and she’s a great tumbler. Haley totally grabs the attention of the audience.”
Outside of competition, Kmieciak offers even higher praise of her friend.
“Haley is so nice and supportive,” she said. “We went to different gyms to train when we were in high school, but I have known her for a while now. She’s really a good friend and I’m happy we’re here at OU together.”
Aside from a busy athletic schedule at OU, Scaman enjoys the entire vibe surrounding the spacious university.
“It’s a beautiful campus and the weather is nice and warm,” she said. “I’m pleased with the academics and I’ve made a lot of friends, especially on the gymnastics teams. Of course, the home football games are really fun. People are crazy for Oklahoma football and I like to tailgate [before games] with my teammates and friends.”
Prior to landing in Norman, Okla., Scaman spent her high school years attending RBHS and training at the Illinois Gymnastics Institute in Westmont.
At IGI, Scaman started to develop her gymnastics skills at the age of 7. A decade and change later, all her hard work is paying off on the collegiate level.
“My training at IGI definitely instilled a sense of discipline within me,” Scaman said. “It helped prepare me for adjusting to college in terms of balancing academics, sports, and even the extensive travel involved with college gymnastics.
“That’s the hardest part about college gymnastics; we’re traveling almost every weekend. At IGI, I was traveling every other weekend for gymnastics competitions.”
At IGI, Scaman trained under Todd Gardiner, Amy Blackburn and Lenore Schwartz. Among many highlights, she was a three-time national champion (vault in 2010, 2011) and (bars in 2011) and was a member of the 2011 Junior Olympic National Team.
Despite the rigors and demands of being part of a big-time athletic college program, Scaman has kept her studies a top priority. She holds an interest in business regarding her academic pursuits.
“I was considering accounting, but just decided to go for business,” Scaman said. “My dream job would be to remodel houses and then flip them for sale. There’s a lot of support for an athlete’s studies at OU. We have an academic center, tutors and I’m taking the best possible classes for my area of study.”
While the majority of her time is spent on the OU campus, Scaman managed to get away for a visit Riverside for three weeks after the school year finished.
“It was nice to come home and visit my family and friends,” Scaman said. “Everybody has been so supportive back home, and OU is like an extended family for me.”
Scaman’s parents are Lori and Rick and she has an older sister, Gabrielle, and younger brother, Hunter. Gabrielle played volleyball at RBHS, while Hunter is interested in playing football for the Bulldogs.
As for Haley, gymnastics will always be her sport of choice.
“When I set goals, I try my very best to attain them,” she said. “Our entire team is looking forward to next season. We really feel like we can go after a national championship.”