Going into Saturday’s NCAA Regional meet, the Missouri gymnastics team knew it would have to beat Big 12 Conference rival Oklahoma to advance to the national championships for the first time since 1981.
The Tigers and Sooners met for the third time this season at the South Central Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after Oklahoma won the first two meets by the slightest of margins.
Earlier in the week, coach Rob Drass said he hoped the third time would be the charm. But Oklahoma outdid Missouri again on Saturday, beating the Tigers by six tenths of a point to claim the regional’s final spot in the national championships.
“They’re a rival of ours and we’ve been neck-and-neck with them all season,” said senior Adrianne Perry in a phone interview shortly after the meet.
“That just would have meant the world to me to beat them out and get to nationals, but unfortunately that didn’t happen,” Perry said, struggling to hold back tears.
Junior Sarah Shire and Perry qualified for nationals as individuals after Shire finished second and Perry tied for fourth in the all-around. It is the first time two MU gymnasts have qualified for nationals as individuals.
It will be Perry’s fourth trip to nationals, but she will end her career without having competed at the meet with her team.
“It’s not fun to be at nationals as an individual, honestly,” she said. “It’s very disappointing, and I feel like we did everything right tonight.”
No. 15 Missouri’s score of 196 was good for third behind No. 3 Alabama (197) and the No. 9 Sooners (196.6). Missouri scored 49.350 on balance beam, the team’s highest event total of the year. But the Tigers posted just a 48.725 on vault, one of their strongest events. Missouri coach Rob Drass said the scoring on vault was tight for all teams.
“I think we’re going to possibly tie our highest finish ever, 13th,” Drass said. “From that point of view, if you look at everything and you take our goals out of the season, you can mark (the season) down as one of the most successful ever.”
But Perry said she thought this year’s team was good enough to go to nationals.
“This was the most talented team we’ve had in my years here,” she said. “We definitely had the confidence, we had the talent. Things just didn’t work out for us. Like I said, we did everything we could tonight."