COLUMBIA — Missouri freshman gymnast Alex Gold was at her gymnastics training facility, Metroplex, in Allen, Texas. Gold wore a black Missouri shirt and sat at an appropriately colored gold table in November of 2006. Behind her was a banner with the Missouri Tiger logo along with black and gold balloons. It was signing day and Gold was pledging her allegiance to Missouri.
There was even a congratulatory cake that said “Go Tigers,” with Gold’s name above. However, one side said “Missouri” and the other side said “LSU.” Signing alongside Gold was fellow Metroplex gymnast Samantha Engle, who was going to Louisiana State, also nicknamed the Tigers.
Who: No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 LSU, No. 18 Missouri, No. 20 Kentucky, Kent State and Ohio State When: 6 p.m. Saturday Where: Maravich Center, Baton Rouge, La.
The two became acquainted at another gym, but then both moved to Metroplex to continue their gymnastics training. When they moved, their friendship grew. Training together daily, the two became best friends and would hang out at each other’s houses often. But when college started, the two went different ways, Engle to Baton Rouge, La., and Gold to Columbia.
Like many best friends, they remained in contact, talking on the phone once or twice a week and text messaging frequently. They last saw each other on Christmas Day and didn’t expect to meet again until the summer. But the two will see each other soon at the NCAA Central Regional.
“I’m really excited because I think our former coach is coming to watch us, too,” Gold said. “It’s just real neat.”
Hosted by No. 7 LSU, the regional includes No. 6 Stanford, No. 18 Missouri, No. 20 Kentucky, Kent State and Ohio State. The regional is at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Maravich Center in Baton Rouge.
As Gold and the Tigers head into their biggest meet of the year, MU coach Rob Drass says the process of qualifying from NCAA regionals to NCAA nationals benefits his club.
“Two teams move on from this meet, the top two teams, and that’s all that matters,” Drass said. “The rest of the year doesn’t matter, how you did before or how you do after, none of that matters. All that matters is how we do on Saturday night.”
Sophomore Sarah Shire says the key to a successful meet is to not be intimidated by the more highly-ranked teams.
“We’re throwing the same skills that they’re throwing and it’s just about who executes them perfectly,” Shire said. “We made it to the same regional they did, so this is fair ground and we’ve done just as much work as they have, so we’re even here.”
Shire, who transferred to Missouri this year from last year’s national runner-up Utah, hopes her winning mentality can translate to Missouri. She said a top-two finish is possible because the team’s best has yet to be seen.
“We haven’t had the perfect season, we haven’t even had a perfect meet,” Shire said. “So our goal and thought process is we’re not going to be intimidated, we’re not going to look at the rankings or the teams and their tradition. We’re going to focus on us, stay inside us and I think we’re going to shock a lot of people.”