COLUMBIA — In January of 2005, Missouri gymnast Ashley Khederian was a freshman. But she was a freshman with big expectations and came to MU as a decorated, three-time Junior National qualifier.
While many gymnasts are a given year to acclimate themselves to gymnastics and become event specialists their freshman year, Khederian was an all-arounder the moment she stepped onto campus.
The first meet of her collegiate gymnastics career was against Big 12 Conference rival Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. Undaunted competing in her first meet on the road, Khederian was the Tigers’ highest scorer and finished second in the all-around. She instantly became an integral part of the Tigers’ lineup and Missouri coach Rob Drass saw a bright future for her.
“She was just real consistent with what she did,” Drass said. “She was a bit of a deer in the headlights and just real nervous about everything. But when we got her in the meet setting and competition, she seemed to settle down and did a real good job of hitting her routines.”
A little more than four years later, not much has changed. Drass is still Missouri’s coach and Khederian is still an all-arounder essential to the team’s success. There are some differences, though: Khederian is now a senior and more vocal.
“I’ve tried to take on more of a leadership role and obviously help out the underclassman,” Khederian said. “At the time (as a freshman), I didn’t even know what college gymnastics was about. Now I have been around and know what it’s like and just try to help my other teammates as much as I can with my experience.”
Outside of gymnastics, Khederian has also become a more independent person.
“When I came to college, because my mom didn’t work, I had never done laundry, made my bed, just basic things,” Khederian said with a laugh. “I know how to do those things now and I am little bit more self-sufficient.”
The No. 16 Tigers’ meet against No. 23 Arizona State at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Hearnes Center will be the last home meet for Khederian as a Missouri Tiger. But to her, it’s just another meet.
“I am anticipating some emotion, but I am not really that emotional of a person,” Khederian said. “I’m just trying not to think about it and get caught up in it because it’s an important meet, and I just want to do what I normally do.”
Although Khederian’s senior season has gone as expected by competing in every meet, the other three seniors have not had similar success. Early in the season, Lisa Puccio was recovering from tearing her ACL the year before which led to a slow start to her season. Julie Abaray was recovering from two knee surgeries in the summer to fix meniscus issues and Nikki Bowman has had ankle issues and is currently awaiting summer ankle surgery.
Although, there have been many ups-and-downs for the seniors, their friendship has remained strong.
“They’re my three best friends,” Khederian said. “Julie, Nikki and I went on our recruiting trip together (at MU), so we’ve known each other for a long time. They are a great group of girls and I am glad we’ve all stayed with it together.”
Drass says the all four seniors will compete in the meet. Khederian will perform in the all-around with Abaray and Puccio possibly competing on the balance beam and uneven bars respectively. Even if Abaray and Puccio do not compete as scorers in the meet, they will perform in exhibition along with Bowman, which is important to Drass.
“We try to make sure that all the seniors get to participate in the senior meet,” Drass said. “It’s owed to them that they gave us four good years and we want to make sure we send them out in style.”