Tumbling out of the grind of high school and the uber-competitive JO club level into one of the best NCAA gymnastics programs in the nation while adjusting to college academics and life is not easy in the slightest. Just ask the majority of freshman on NCAA Gymnastics rosters that don’t see any time in lineups. But former international elite, Level 10 JO Nationals champion, and now Oklahoma Sooner star freshman Olivia Trautman has made it look easy.
The 18-year-old Champlin, Minnesota native has survived and thrived under the highly-pressurized role as one of the leaders of number one-ranked Oklahoma, achieving astronomical success at an incredibly consistent rate just as a freshman. A Perfect 10.0 on her signature floor exercise routine and a Big 12 Championship title later and Trautman is now ready to lead and possibly anchor another national championship title for the Sooners.
Coming off an incredible club career as a junior elite and then Level 10 at Twin City Twisters, the same gym that produced Trautman’s good friend, world champion, and current Sooners star and national champion Maggie Nichols and also current US elite Grace McCallum, Trautman came in to Norman with big expectations upon her after placing third all-around, first on floor, and second on vault at Level 10 JO Nationals in Cincinnati in 2018.
“We were best friends in club and we travelled the world together with elite and like the elite competitions and we were super close then. And then watching her in college made my dream of going to OU so much better like I was seeing how good she was doing and it just made me want to go there even more,” said Trautman on her friendship with Nichols.
“And then finally joining her now just feels like we’ve been reunited and we’re the best of friends.”
Trautman’s transition from Minnesota to Norman appeared pretty seamless on the competition floor, immediately emerging as one of the leaders for Oklahoma, anchoring the floor exercise lineup in just her first collegiate meet on the road at Arkansas, scoring a nearly-flawless 9.950 no less. Many incoming NCAA gymnasts could never even dream of that smooth a transition.
“I would say my transition went pretty well, it was pretty smooth. Obviously at first it’s a big adjustment just living away from your family and your friends from home,” explained Trautman.
“The OU team and everyone here just like helped me adjust and I trusted them.”
In a season that has appeared perfect from the outside, with the Sooners still undefeated heading into nationals, but one head coach KJ Kindler has repeatedly said has challenged and tested her team due to injuries, illness, and setbacks, it has been the unlikely freshman serving as the solid rock and the rock star all at once for the top-ranked team.
“I would say I’m definitely happy with how our team has been doing, we’ve been facing a lot of challenges but we’ve always overcome them,” said Trautman.
“We have a lot of depth and have just been doing really well.”
Trautman appears consistently in the vault, beam, and floor lineups and has made an appearance in the bars lineup at a point as well, having to be called upon by Kindler for the all-around against number two Florida in a blockbuster meet where OU’s usual depth was already stretched.
“Coach Kindler’s advice is just to like she already knows you can do it so she just knowing she can trust you and do all the skills that you know how to do really makes it a better thing.”
The star Sooner freshman also occupies an incredibly unique and challenging role for any collegiate gymnast, let alone a freshman: leadoff on balance beam. Trying to follow in the footsteps of former Sooner beam leadoffs such as Charity Jones and Stephanie Catour, Trautman’s confidence and incredible consistency are a big reason why Kindler looks to the freshman to get the number one beam team started each meet.
“I’m the starter on beam so like the coaches obviously trust me but I can just like focus more on my confidence and trust myself more,” said Trautman.
On balance beam Trautman’s steadiness has made her a clear leadoff for Oklahoma, but it’s been floor exercise where the super Sooner freshman has made her mark with electric tumbling, intricate and energetic dance and choreography, and remarkable consistency in the anchor spot.
Ranked second nationally on the floor exercise, Trautman’s tremendous consistency is almost unparalleled in NCAA gymnastics, scoring a 9.900 or higher on every floor routine she has performed this season in 13 outings. Her hit rate is even higher in the Sooners’ postseason run so far, scoring a near-perfect 9.975 on each of her routines at the conference championships and in both days of regional competition.
The highlight for Trautman this season no doubt has been her Perfect 10.0 on her signature event at the Perfect 10 Challenge in February in Oklahoma City, receiving her first, and surely not last, career 10 in front of a massive home-crowd advantage at the Cox Convention Center in OKC.
“My performance I felt like was really good. I felt like that was the best one I had done in all of the competitions and like after my first pass I knew it was special and that it was gonna be a great routine,” commented Trautman.
“Receiving a 10 was a dream come true.”
Trautman had already received two near-perfect 9.975 marks up to that point in the season and after being so close to that elusive 10.0, she wanted it badly.
“It was a little bit [in my head] because I knew I was close because the previous competitions but I just tried not to focus on getting a 10. I just tried to focus on all the details on my passes and showing off my routine.”
Trautman’s floor routine has soared onto the scene this season as a quick-hit fan favorite among gymnastics fans thanks to its incredible performance and artistic expression. The tumbling is sky-high and incredibly well-controlled as well, opening with a huge, textbook double layout and closing with a powerful double tuck. Despite the powerful tumbling, it’s the trademark KJ Kindler style and Trautman flare that have set it apart as one of the best in the nation this season.
“My character is that I’m like a senior in high school and I’m sneaking out to like a salsa class kind of and like in the middle of my routine I dance more and show it off like kind of salsa moves. Then at the end I apparently get caught I don’t really know to be honest,” laughed Trautman.
Explaining the change in mindset from the very serious, intense style of a Level 10 or elite floor routine to choreographing a college routine, Trautman assessed that “at first it was challenging because I’ve never done choreography like that but once I got the hang of that it became easier and [Coach Kindler] helped me through the whole routine.”
Now into the postseason and on another possible championship drive chasing down a fourth national title for the Sooners, Trautman is focused on how she can help her team hoist that trophy in Fort Worth.
Just a month ago at the Big 12 Gymnastics Championship at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, it all came down to Trautman to secure another conference championship title for her team, getting the number on floor the Sooners needed to win and clinch the trophy. It’s very possible it could again come down to Trautman to anchor floor to clinch the national championship title in front of a huge number of Sooner fans inside the Fort Worth Convention Center in Texas.
Assessing her team’s strength and prospects at winning another national championship, Trautman said “I would say that we’re pretty like consistent on all the events like we have a lot of depth but right now I would say we’re pretty strong on vault because we’re putting up six 10.0 start values.”
“That just like puts us over an advantage of all the other teams but I would definitely say we’re strong on everything.”
Asked about her goals for herself to close this season at nationals and end her freshman year, she said “for me as an individual, I want to try and All-American on floor or a couple of events.”
Trautman didn’t hide the Sooners’ desires either.
“As a team, we want to win the national championship.”
Oklahoma will get a chance to do just that, to hoist a fourth national championship title in program history and avenge their heart-breaking Super Six loss to the reigning national champion UCLA Bruins, this time in front of a huge home-crowd advantage in Fort Worth and with a freshman phenom named Olivia Trautman to finish the undefeated season in style.Tags: 2018 JO Nationals, 2018 Level 10 JO Nationals, 2019 Big 12 Gymnastic Championship, 2019 Perfect 10 Challenge, Arkansas, Arkansas Razorbacks, Big 12, Big 12 Gymnastics Championship, Charity Jones, Florida, Florida Gators, Grace McCallum, JO Nationals, KJ Kindler, Level 10 JO Nationals, Maggie Nichols, NCAA Gymnastics, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Sooners, Olivia Trautman, Pac 12, Perfect 10 Challenge, SEC, Stephanie Catour, Twin City Twisters, UCLA, UCLA Bruins