NORMAN, Okla. — The drive from southwest Oklahoma City to Lloyd Noble Center was just short enough that it became an easy routine for Jenna Dunn.
She grew up attending Oklahoma women’s gymnastics meets, star-struck by athletes like Megan Ferguson, who shined on the balance beam for OU from 2009-12.
But could she ever be one of them?
“She cares so much. She’s totally invested and has been ever since she was a little kid,” OU coach K.J. Kindler said. “Grew up watching this program and after her first routine, she was astonished that she had contributed.”
Dunn’s confidence her freshman season hit a new level last week, reinforcing the idea she can help the Sooners in their quest for a repeat national title.
The beam specialist scored a career-high 9.875 at Texas Woman’s University.
Kindler has built the program into one of the nation’s elite. For in-state athletes, standing in the spotlight for the Sooners on the gym mat is a dream as big as those kept by football players just down the road.
“There is that magic,” Dunn said. “It’s definitely been like a dream come true.”
With that adoration comes nerves. Much of Dunn’s changes mentally since joining the program have been reminding herself that she belongs here.
“I think you grow up watching it and you can't quite envision that you're going to be one of those people out there,” Kindler said. “It’s like a dream, and sometimes dreams don't come true. You know, you work hard for them you maybe think they're a little out of reach.
“She didn't quite have the confidence she should have had in her abilities, but she's obviously capable.”
Dunn attended Westmoore High School and is a product of Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy in Norman. Dynamo Gymnastics has been another hotbed for local gymnasts.
One of OU’s best gymnasts in program history is Kelly Garrison Funderburk, who is from Altus and trained in the Oklahoma City area. But the Sooners haven’t historically filled up on in-state talent because of the wide net it can cast into the national talent pool.
“It’s been relatively small, to be honest with you. We are always have at least one Oklahoma athlete on our team. We've had as many as four probably,” Kindler said. “But, you know, the more we can have, the better.”
Dunn is just scratching her career’s surface. She isn’t competing on uneven bars anymore to focus on beam and floor. She’s been in the lineup on beam for all seven meets this season.
Every beam routine includes an acro, or acrobatic, series. Dunn performs the most challenging series on the team with three skills in a row.
“It’s hard to do [that] and do them great every time,” Kindler said. “But she does that.”
In high school, Dunn thought briefly about other colleges where she could do this. Brown was on the list, along with a few others. But she never lost communication with Kindler, and OU always remained the goal.
She has learned a lot since the preseason.
“More so,” Dunn said, “I’m learning how to trust myself.”
OU women’s gymnastics
TWU/WVU at Oklahoma
Time/Place: 6:45 p.m. Friday | Lloyd Noble Center
Records/Rankings: OU (10-0, 1-0 Big 12) No. 1; Texas Woman’s (4-5); West Virginia (5-5)