The Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team is the best in the nation, holding the number one ranking ever since their first meet stepping on the competition floor in this 2019 season. Throughout the season, the Sooners have had to deal with injuries and other setbacks to maintain solid performances week after week, and sophomore Anastasia Webb has stepped up to help lead the top-ranked and three-time national champions Oklahoma team on all four events.
A native of Morton Grove, Illinois, Webb was a standout Level 10 in JO club gymnastics, recruited by many of the top programs in the country before choosing to commit to Oklahoma. The decision to come to Oklahoma, a school Webb states “felt like home” and a “happy place”, has been a great one so far for the sophomore, as she stepped onto a team full of former world and national team members and has quietly become one of the brightest Sooner stars.
Transitioning from club gymnastics to competing for the top team in the nation has been very exciting for Anastasia, who calls college gymnastics “lots more fun” than she imagined, and says “being in front of a huge crowd is like nothing [she] has ever imagined,” adding that it “feels like [she’s] at the Olympics”.
Stepping onto this stage has seemed like a breeze for the sophomore stud, who after becoming the co-Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in her freshman season, has become even more essential to Oklahoma’s success this year- competing more routines than any other Sooner so far this season. The always-humble student-athlete says she is “shocked and very grateful” at her success, crediting her coaches for “pushing her so hard to help her compete”.
Webb credits head coach KJ Kindler in particular, saying something she really likes about Kindler’s coaching style is that she “won’t accept mediocrity,” and is “willing to do whatever it takes to push you to be the best you can be”. Kindler, along with assistant coaches Lou Ball, who Webb describes as a “jokester”, and Tom Haley, described by Anastasia as “inspirational”, were a major factor in her decision to become a Sooner, as she felt Oklahoma was “the best fit with the coaching staff”.
Anastasia is one of the top ten all-around gymnasts in the country, but always keeps the focus on helping her team to be the best it can be. She has embraced her new leadoff role on the uneven bars and floor exercise, a spot that athletes typically shy away from as it comes with additional pressure and can be difficult to garner a high score early in the lineup. Saying she “likes the feeling of starting off the team”, Webb has aimed to start off strong to help her teammates gain confidence and “feel like they do amazing too,” especially on floor, an event where many freshman have been called on to enter the lineup. Two of those underclassmen, Jordan Draper and Emma LaPinta, typically follow Webb in the lineup and have voiced their happiness about having Anastasia leading off the rotation, coming to her and saying “because of you I feel so much better,” a message which Webb takes to heart and uses to help fuel her own performances.
One of the most artistic gymnasts currently competing in college with a floor routine full of intricate and expressive dance, Webb actually has no dance background, joking that the only dance experience she had growing up was “dancing around in her mirror like a Victoria’s Secret model”. Head coach KJ Kindler frequently talks about how impressive of a dancer Webb is, and this year pushed her to go out of her comfort zone with her music choice, choosing a piece of music that was very different for Anastasia. The song is titled “Majesty” and like she does for all Oklahoma routines, Kindler has created a storyline and a character for the routine.
Anastasia “dances her way through” the routine in the character of a woman in a royal wedding who does not want to marry the man she is supposed to, with the ending of her routine featuring her pushing her hand down as to reject the proposal. The artistic quality of the routine has made it a fan favorite, with the sophomore saying she gets in a zone on floor and aims to show “how graceful [she] can be”.
The Sooners have had an undefeated season, becoming Big 12 champions for the eighth year in a row and defeating number two UCLA in a huge matchup with over 10,000 fans in attendance, a record number for Oklahoma women’s gymnastics attendance. Anastasia called the meet one of the major highlights of the season for her, calling performing in front of the record crowd with friends and family looking on a really special moment for all of them.
Oklahoma will likely have to face off against the Bruins again at nationals, as the two are expected to go head to head for the national championship once more. For the Sooners, Anastasia believes the key will be “believing in themselves and hitting their routines as perfectly as they can,” with the goal for the end of the season being to bring the national championship title back to Norman. With Webb helping lead the team with her consistent, confident performances, the Sooners seem right on track to do just that.Tags: Anastasia Webb, Big 12, Emma LaPinta, Jordan Draper, KJ Kindler, Lou Ball, NCAA Gymnastics, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Sooners, Tom Haley