MU gymnasts beat Illinois-Chicago

Lauren Stephenson's best performance of the season paces the Tigers
Friday, February 1, 2008 | 9:48 p.m. CST; updated 8:23 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Lauren Stephenson stood on the floor, staring down the vault. She softly danced to the music playing in the background and took one final breath.

With cheers from her teammates and the crowd, she started running toward the vault. After landing, Stephenson was rewarded with 9.800, a personal best, which helped Missouri defeat Illinois-Chicago 195.400-190.500 Friday night at the Hearnes Center.

Throughout practice this week, Missouri head coach Rob Drass wanted his team to start better, particularly in the first two routines. Stephenson, a walk-on freshman, went second in the vault rotation and delivered on Drass’ wish.

“Lauren did a fantastic job.” Drass said. “Lauren works really hard and you just want to see good things happen when kids work that hard.”

Given the chance to perform on vault for the second week in a row, Stephenson was happy to perform so well for her teammates.

“(Being a walk-on) the team has really welcomed me, and I want to contribute as much as I can to the overall performance,” Stephenson said. “Vault has given me the confidence and I know I can hit it every meet.”

Stephenson’s breakthrough performance helped the Tigers to a season-best point total. However, Drass believes his team performed better than they it did against Nebraska, although comparing scores is difficult.

“I think our performance tonight was way better than we had in the Nebraska meet,” Drass said. “It’s hard to compare scores from one place to another.”

Sophomore Sarah Shire continued her brilliant season by winning the all-around competition with a 39.375, her second this season, and keeps building her confidence.

“I think it’s a big confidence builder,” Shire said. “This whole week in practice I have just been focusing on practicing like you’re in a meet and calming yourself down.”

In addition to Shire’s performance, the Tigers swept the top three spots in the all-around with junior Adrianne Perry and senior Ashley Khederian finishing second and third, respectively.

With the win, the Tigers improved to 3-1 on the season, its best start since 1993.

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