Oklahoma challenges MU gymnasts

Thursday, February 21, 2008 | 10:22 p.m. CST; updated 8:26 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Most of the time, a successful gymnastics meet is not about winning or losing. It’s about a team’s score.

In many sports, wins and losses are the determining factor for postseason play, but gymnastics uses an average of a team’s scores during the year to figure where a team ends up after the regular season ends. Losing a meet while scoring a 196.000 is better than winning a meet by scoring a 195.000.

But don’t tell that to the Missouri gymnastics team. The Tigers not only want to post a high score, but also look to beat rival Oklahoma on Friday at Hearnes Center and gain supremacy in the Big 12 Conference.

This season, the No. 13 Tigers have not seen a team like No. 6 Oklahoma, which has three gymnasts ranked in the top 20 in the nation in the all-around. In order to succeed, though, Missouri will still have to focus on its own performance.

“We definitely have an incentive to try and prove ourselves,” junior Alicia Hatcher said. “I think our main goal still depends on us. We don’t have control about what they do, so the outcome is directly dependent on what we do. It doesn’t matter what scores they get, it all matters about us and that’s what we’ll focus on.”

Having a high-ranked opponent also has its advantages.

“I think having a great team in here helps elevate our game and our performance, because you know you have to,” Missouri coach Rob Drass said. “You have to be that much sharper, a little bit more precise, stronger and you have a little bit more energy, as well, and I think that helps get the better performance. Sometimes you rise or fall to the level of your competition, and I think Oklahoma will help us rise to the level where we need to be.”

The goal for the Tigers this season has been to eclipse the 196.000 point total, which has yet to be accomplished, and the key to achieving the score is starting strong.

“(We can score high) by building off a good event,” sophomore Danielle Guider said. “We’re starting on vault and vault is a strong event for us. If we keep our energy up, we should be able to build from there.”

Although the season high score for the Tigers is 195.800 against Centenary College on Feb. 8, Drass said that his team has performed better than the scores indicate.

“I think sometimes you get stuck on a number,” Drass said. “I think we’ve had two of them (196.000 performances) this year, we haven’t actually been rewarded with them, but I think at (Southeast Missouri State) and our last home meet (against Centenary), I think we did pretty well.”

The Tigers have four gymnasts ranked in the top 20 of various events. Sophomore Sarah Shire is tied for No. 6 in the floor exercise and No. 19 in the vault. Junior Adrianne Perry is No. 18 in the floor exercise. Senior Ashley Khederian is tied for No. 18 in the all-around and Hatcher is tied for No. 14 in the balance beam.

Hatcher said that the key at an individual level is to avoid complacency.

“I think just for me, knowing each time you perform as an individual, you’re still working for the team,” she said. “Knowing that what I do matters for the team is a big incentive.”

Oklahoma’s top 20 all-arounders are No. 3 Kiara Redmond-Sturms, No. 15 Ashley Jackson and, tied for No. 18, Haley DeProspero.

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