Final home meet extra special for MU gymnast Hatcher

The senior's father traveled from the Middle East, where he is working, to see his daughter nab an event title. No. 13 Missouri upset No. 9 Oregon State
Friday, March 13, 2009 | 7:34 p.m. CDT; updated 10:47 a.m. CDT, Saturday, March 14, 2009

COLUMBIA - Alicia Hatcher picked quite a night to have the best meet of her career.

Along with Missouri gymnasts Adrianne Perry and Liz Straatmann, Hatcher competed at home for the last time Friday night at Hearnes Center.

She tied career highs on the balance beam and floor, helping No. 13 Missouri upset No. 9 Oregon State 196.425-195.950.

Hatcher had about 12 family members at the meet. One of them was her dad, Ward Allen. On Thursday, Allen spent 26 hours flying from Doha, Qatar, to Kansas City to make it back for Hatcher’s final meet at Hearnes Center.

Allen, an aircraft fuel systems engineer, has been working in Qatar on and off for a year helping to build a $9 billion airport. He had to persuade his company to let him miss a few days.

“I’ve always tried to get back and be there as much as I could, but I’ve missed a lot of meets in her life,” said Allen, sounding a little disappointed. “So this being the final home meet, this is kind of a milestone for her. This is something we’ll look back on 20 years from now.”

Allen’s job has taken him around the U.S. and the world, from New York to China to Guam. Growing up, Hatcher only saw Allen on weekends because Allen was no longer with Hatcher’s mom, Connie Serrano. Allen wasn’t going to miss this meet.

“I think it was a huge deal for him,” Serrano said. “…He’s always made her a priority.”

Hatcher said Allen normally wears a Missouri hat and hoodie, a pair of jeans and tennis shoes when he comes to meets. On Friday, Allen was decked out in a black shirt with a black-and-gold tie, a beige sport coat, grey dress pants and black shoes.

“He asked me when we were standing on the floor, he’s like, ‘How’s my tie look?’" Hatcher said. "I was like, ‘You look great dad.’ He knows he’s not the best dresser. I always get him clothes for Christmas and things like that.”

Allen looked his best for the night, and he also made sure he was in the best position to soak in every second of Hatcher’s final home meet. He moved seats after each event to get as close as possible to Hatcher.

As Hatcher performed her career-high balance beam routine, Allen sat three rows up. He nodded his head after Hatcher successfully completed each part of her routine, mouthing “wow” in amazement of his daughter’s performance.

After Hatcher saw her score, a 9.9, she walked away from the beam with her mouth in her hands. She looked up to Allen, who, with a big grin on his face, pumped his fist.

Junior Sarah Shire also had a lot to smile about. She won the all-around title for the ninth time this season, scoring a 39.475. Perry finished third in the all-around with a 39.250, winning on floor.

But it was hard to top Hatcher’s night. Hatcher’s stepdad, Jeff Serrano, performed the national anthem before the meet. Hatcher isn’t as close with her stepdad as she is with her mom or dad, but he was happy for the opportunity to sing.

“It made it a lot more special,” Jeff Serrano said.

When Hatcher was growing up, her mom was single. Connie Serrano said she and Hatcher are best friends. But Hatcher has memories with Allen, too.

“He always jokes that anytime we’re with him, I always have to have a lesson," Hatcher said. "…Anytime that he has a chance to teach me something or to tell me something different that I might not know, he does. He’s one of the smartest people I know.”

Hatcher has always valued time with her dad.

“He always took me to parks and flower gardens and space museums and stuff that kinda just taught me the odd things that I wouldn’t normally get to see,” Hatcher said. “He really tried to give me that extra little thing that I wouldn’t normally have. The time that I always spent with him was a little more special because I knew that there wasn’t a lot of it.”

Hatcher won’t have much time with Allen this weekend, either. On Saturday, Allen will head to the airport and return to Qatar.

But on Friday, he was here for Hatcher’s memorable night.

“I do have a very special bond with my dad,” Hatcher said. “It showed tonight because he’s here for me. Flying halfway around the world just to see me for three hours says so much.”



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