Missouri’s gymnastics team ended its streak of below-average performances in conference championships on Saturday.
The Tigers didn’t choke during their last event, like they did last year when two gymnasts fell on balance beam. And they didn’t get blown out by more than two points – a landslide in gymnastics – like in 2007.
This year, MU had a strong meet. Aside from one performance on floor, no Missouri gymnast scored lower than 9.7 on any event. Missouri’s one-two punch of Sarah Shire and Adrianne Perry finished first and second in the all-around. And The Tigers’ 195.925 would have won the meet last year.
But No. 14 MU finished third at the Big 12 Championship for the third straight year Saturday afternoon in Ames, Iowa. The Tigers finished just .150 behind second-place Nebraska (No. 12) and .225 behind champion Oklahoma (No. 8), which won its second straight conference title.
“I think that was the most competitive Big 12 Championship there has ever been,” coach Rob Drass said in a phone interview after the meet.
No. 24 Iowa State, which finished last, was just .350 behind Oklahoma.
“It was kind of down to the last routine on each event in a lot of ways to see who was going to be in what place,” Drass said. “It was definitely competitive. It was pins and needles the whole time.”
Before Nebraska’s final gymnast performed on the team’s final event, none of the standings were set. Shire said the Tigers didn’t realize how close the meet was until the end of MU’s last event. Not necessarily a bad thing, considering Missouri was in last place after each of the first three events.
The Tigers started the meet on their two weakest events – uneven bars and balance beam. They scored 48.800 on bars and 48.850 on beam, both slightly above MU’s season averages.
“Bars and beam, we just weren’t quite as sharp on those as we should be,” said Drass, who said MU didn’t stick enough dismounts on bars and had a couple of wobbles on beam.
Missouri made up ground on floor and vault, scoring 49.125 and 49.150, respectively. The vault score was the highest of the meet.
“We thought we were just as good as any one of those teams and it was just a matter of two steps,” Drass said. “I mean, that’s the difference between winning and third place.”
Although Drass said the people Missouri is trying to prove itself to will notice the team’s solid score rather than another third-place finish, Shire said many won’t appreciate MU’s performance.
“It is disappointing because people don’t look at the scores,” Shire said. “People don’t look at how close we were. People look at the rankings, and the rankings show right now that Oklahoma won Big 12. And that’s the frustrating part.”
That Shire is frustrated reflects the duality of the meet. The junior won her tenth all-around title in 11 tries this year. She tied for first on vault and balance beam, continuing her stellar season as one of the nation’s top 10 gymnasts. After the meet, Shire was named Co-Big 12 Gymnast of the Year along with Nebraska’s Kylie Stone.
Perry, a senior who won the all-around last year, beat out Stone to finish second in the all-around. She also won the floor title with a 9.950 – the best score of the meet on any event.
Missouri didn’t perform below its season-average at the meet, like it has many times in the past. But MU still hasn’t won a conference championship since 1992.
“We came out with a bunch of Big 12 champions,” Drass said. “We just didn’t get the team one.”