COLUMBIA - Rob Drass rubbed his face with his hands, looking deflated.
The night shouldn’t have been so stressful for Missouri’s gymnastics coach. His No. 13 Tigers entered Friday night’s 29th annual Cat Classic as clear favorites.
But when Danielle Guider fell of the balance beam, Drass couldn’t help but look discouraged. Minutes earlier, Drass witnessed his two seniors, Adrianne Perry and Alicia Hatcher, fall during their uneven bars routines. He was stunned.
“Those two seniors I don’t think I’ve seen miss in the same meet,” Drass said. “I’m not sure they’ve missed in the same season. To miss back-to-back like that is just an anomaly.”
Perry fell off the high bar and landed awkwardly, falling to the ground. Hatcher got hung up on a release from the high bar, which Drass said she has never done in practice.
“It’s one of those things, ‘Am I really seeing this happen before me?’” Drass said.
The Tigers were in danger of failing to win the Cat Classic, the four-team Tiger tradition that helped put Missouri gymnastics on the map years ago, for the second straight year.
Fortunately for Missouri, junior Brooke Boehmer got the Tigers back on track after Guider’s fall with a 9.775. Missouri never looked back and won the meet, scoring a 195.275, its third-lowest score of the season. The Tigers beat out No. 23 Michigan State, Cal State Fullerton and Western Michigan in front of 2,297 at Hearnes Center.
Although the score was disappointing – Missouri was looking to post a 196 three weeks in a row for the first time in 2004 – the Tigers rebounded well after falling four times in five routines.
“I was really proud the way we finished on floor because it’s really easy just to let things keep sliding,” Drass said.
Junior Sarah Shire set a career high in the all-around for the second time in three weeks, posting a 39.575. She won her seventh all-around title in eight weeks. Shire said the team’s mishaps will make Missouri more aware in practice.
“I think it’s something that will keep everyone on their toes,” she said. “Weird things will happen. It’s gymnastics.”
But Shire, the country's ninth-best all-arounder entering the meet, looks like she can do no wrong.
“She’s starting to believe in herself so much that it’s like a train moving and it’s hard to derail,” Drass said.
Perry won the all-around at the Cat Classic last year and in 2006, but she scored a season-low 38.625. Back in ’06, the Cat Classic brought more than 4,000 spectators to Hearnes Center. At its peak in the '80s, the event, which then spanned two days, attracted around 10,000 fans each year.
Jan Summers, a booster who has been to every Cat Classic but the first one, remembers when the Classic was more than a meet.
“It was entertainment,” Summers, 58, said. “The gymnastics part of it was important, too. But it was a big hoopla. It was a lot of fun.”
She said there used to be a guy who dressed up as a girl and did a routine on the underneath side of the balance beam as fans waited for the scores. The meet brought in celebrities like Olympic gold-medalist Shannon Miller, Summers said.
The meet seems to have lost a little bit of its luster. Not one top-10 team competed this year. Last year, No. 4 Michigan competed and won the Classic. But for Summers, it’s still a big deal.
“You want to win the Cat Classic,” she said.
Missouri did. But it wasn't as easy on Drass as expected.