MU gymnasts look to overcome past struggles at Big 12 conference championships

The Tigers have not placed in the top two in the last 15 years
Thursday, March 27, 2008 | 8:12 p.m. CDT; updated 8:33 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Since Missouri gymnastics was established in 1980, it has only won the conference championship once. That happened in 1992,and the team hasn’t finished in the top two of the four teams during the past 15 years — including last year’s third-place result.

The competition for the No. 18 Tigers is strong with No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 14 Nebraska and Iowa State rounding out the field. The Tigers have competed against all three, beating Iowa State and hanging close with both Nebraska and Oklahoma before losing.

“I think we’re sitting better than we have in the past,” Missouri coach Rob Drass said. “I still think we need to do the job to put them down. For us to win that championship, it’s going to take a special performance for each and every athlete.”

For the Tigers to place in the top two, they will likely need to better their season best score of 195.800. The meet is being hosted by Oklahoma starting Saturday at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman.

The Tigers will have an advantage in preparation for the championship. While the Tigers’ opponents had spring breaks last week, MU is on break this week.

“I think this week will help,” senior Julie Abaray said. “Since its spring break, I think just being able to practice and not worry about school will be a big assistance to all the girls. They’re hurting, they’re getting tired, it’s 10 weeks into the season and a lot of them have been doing every event day in and day out. I think just having a break will be a big help.”

Junior Adrianne Perry agreed.

“This time of year, school’s really hard and our bodies are getting tired,” Perry said. “So I think having the week to just focus on practice, kind of relax and sleep in a little bit, I think that’s going to help us a lot going into the Big 12 (Championships).”

The gymnasts practice in the afternoon and, because of the scheduling of practice, their classes are early in the morning and studying occurs late into the night. The gymnasts generally do not get much sleep.

“I need a lot of sleep and I know if I don’t get it, my eyes are burning by the end of the day and my contacts are blurry,” Abaray said. “When you’re tired the last thing you want to be doing is floor routines. Hopefully, the girls will get caught up on it this week.”

The frustrating part of the season for the gymnasts and the coaches has been seeing two different teams in practice and in meets. When Drass was asked about a key to this weekend, the answer was simple, but the problem was complex.

“Just the details, getting it down, so that the team that shows up at practice is going to show up at the meets each and every night,” Drass said. “I think there’s just the little things that we give away that we don’t need to.”

Perry, who has done her part by winning five of the last six all-around competitions, agrees with her coach.

“We’re not doing what we do in practice in the meets,” Perry said. “For some reason, we get to these meets and there’s just something lacking. I think over these next couple weeks, we really need to figure out what that is.”

Drass has been frustrated the past few weeks with his team’s inability to improve on its score. That culminated last week in the floor exercise with two gymnasts going out of bounds and another falling. He issued a clear challenge to his team.

“We’ve got to step up to the plate and get the job done,” Drass said. “We’re a good team, don’t get me wrong, but for us to win the title and be a top 10 team, we’ve got to take care of those little details.”

HONORS: Sophomore Sarah Shire and junior Adrianne Perry were named to the Big 12 All-Conference Team in the vault with junior Alicia Hatcher being named on the uneven bars. The honors were was announced Wednesday by the Big 12. It is the second consecutive season that Perry was named All-Conference in the vault and second consecutive season for Hatcher on the uneven bars. Shire and Perry have each been named Big 12 Gymnast of the Week once and the same for Hatcher as Big 12 Specialist of the Week. All three trained at Great American Gymnastic Express in Blue Springs prior to college.

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