By Darren Hellwege, KBIA Sports Director
The Mizzou gymnastics squad bounced back from last week’s disappointing performance at the Cancun Classic by defeating Southeast Missouri State at Saturday’s “Beauty and the Beast” event at Hearnes Center. Tori Howard and Mary Burke both scored 9.85 scores on excellent floor routines to give Mizzou the upper hand, with the Tigers scoring 194.925 to 192.825 for SEMO.
“I’m very happy with that score,” said Mizzou head coach Rob Drass. “I’d rather lose with a good score like that than to win without scoring so well.”
The Tiger lost last week in Cancun, Mexico to West Virginia, scoring just 191.975. “I thought we were a strong team tonight. We had a much better bar set, beam was way, way better. I think we were solid the whole way through,” said Drass, whose Tigers are now 1-1 on the year.
Sophomore Lauren Swankoski led Tiger scoring on the vault with a 9.85, while Burke’s 9.8 was the top beam score. Burke was joined by Allie Heizelman with 9.8 scores on the bars. “I think I had a good performance, and with the team overall, we proved that this is our team, not last week, and we paved the way for the rest of the season,” said Burke.
The team will be hard-pressed to match its success of last season, which was considered the finest in the program’s history—Mizzou won their NCAA Regional and qualified for the NCAA championships. This year’s team is young, with just one senior. But that senior, Alex Gold, says their goal is to make it back to nationals.
“I’m looking forward to making it to nationals again,” said a confident Gold. “I think we’ll get there…no, I know we’ll get there.”
As a team leader, Gold takes pride not just in her own performance, but in the entire Tiger squad. “This team has a lot of talent, it’s just getting them to realize they have talent and trusting themselves,” said Gold.
The Beauty and the Beast event was “different from what we’re used to, but it’s so much fun to have that much energy from the crowd,” said Burke, who added that the team practiced all week with a “distraction CD” to mimic the noise of the crowd at the event, where gymnasts perform on one half of the arena floor and wrestlers battle at the other end.
The Tigers next travel Friday to Iowa to take on Iowa State in Ames. They’ll take part in the Metroplex Challenge in Dallas Jan. 29th with national powers LSU, Alabama and Nebraska before returning home for a Feb. 4 match against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers, a traditionally strong team in the sport, will play their last match against Mizzou then, as they’ll join the Big 10 Conference for the 2011-2012 academic year.