COLUMBIA – After senior Adrianne Perry performed the final scored routine of the night, the entire Missouri gymnastics team seemed to know it just made history.
When the score was announced, junior Sarah Shire jumped from pure excitement at seeing that MU had posted a 196.625, the highest of the season and seventh highest in school history.
Shire had said earlier in the week that the team’s goal coming into the meet was to hit a score of 196. The last time the Tigers did that was two years ago. Shire wasn’t around then, so Friday night meant a lot to her.
“The preparation finally just paid off,” Shire said.
That preparation was evident as the MU gymnasts performed beautifully and bullied their way through all 24 routines at the third annual Beauty and the Beast meet.
After the meet, head coach Rob Drass was glowing as he talked about his team’s performance.
“This is the best team I’ve coached here,” he said.
Shire said the compliments were coming from the entire coaching staff.
“For the very first time this season they were very proud of us,” Shire said.
For the second time this season, No. 13 Missouri beat No. 17 Illinois. But coming into the meet, the team did have some concerns, despite having already beaten the Illini.
Earlier in the week, the Tigers said they needed to improve on the balance beam, an area that has been lacking this season. They also had to prepare for a different level of noise, knowing that wrestling would be competing simultaneously on the Hearnes Center floor.
But the team responded, posting a 49.250 on beam, the second best event of the night for the Tigers.
As for the noisy environment, senior Alicia Hatcher embraced it.
“I want that energy and that excitement,” she said.
Having been named as one of the Mizzou ’39, Hatcher had to miss the banquet in order to compete Friday night.
“I would’ve like to have been there, but this is my place,” Hatcher said. “This is my home.”
Hatcher’s presence helped propel the Tigers to victory, as she led them with a 9.825 on bars and was one of the top performers on beam.
Shire won the all-around with a 39.525, as teammates Perry and freshman Mary Burke finished second and third, respectively.
Missouri travels to Oklahoma on Friday for its next meet. By then, Hatcher expects the Tigers will be ranked a little higher.
“Breaking that 196 is really good for us,” she said. “It’ll help us in the rankings, which we’re not supposed to look at them, but that’s what it comes down to at the end.”