Missouri gymnasts fill different roles

Friday, February 12, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 12:37 p.m. CST, Friday, February 12, 2010
MU gymnast Brooke Boehmer performs on the balance beam during Mizzou's Pink Out meet against Iowa on Jan. 22.

COLUMBIA — If you look at the Missouri gymnastics roster, you will notice that every Tigers gymnast is listed as an all-around performer.

This is not entirely the case, but it is something the coaching staff stresses to its athletes. Each Missouri gymnast, aside from senior Brooke Boehmer, trains on every event. It’s something coach Rob Drass said he thinks makes the team more competitive.

“It’s actually a good thing,” freshman Lauren Swankoski said. “You never know when they’re going to need you on that event. It’s not going to come as a surprise if they tell you that you need to have your routine. All of us have a routine on every event.”

Boehmer, who trains solely on balance beam, is a former walk-on who became a scholarship athlete. She injured her ACL during her freshman season but has since become one of the team’s most reliable balance beam competitors. Drass calls her “a staple” on beam.

“Before I go," Boehmer said, "I always tell myself,  ‘One thing at a time. You know how to do this. You’ve done this before.’ I just go out there and hit it.”

While senior Sarah Shire is one of the country’s top beam performers, she credits Boehmer for setting her up during competition.

“She’s consistent and confident,” Shire said. “She’s someone we can really rely on.”

Boehmer has a specific role on the team, but the other gymnasts are expected to train in every event, and they are recruited to do so.

Swankoski is one of three gymnasts that perform in every event during meets. It’s a large role to assume for a freshman, but her teammates say she’s doing a good job.

“Doing the all-around as a freshman is a really big deal,” Shire said. “I don’t think people realize how hard that is. Starting off as a freshman doing the all-around really sets her up for a great junior and senior year as well.”

Swankoski is the No. 88 all-around gymnast in the country, a lower rank than Shire and sophomore Mary Burke. Drass hopes Swankoski will fill the role of top all-around performer in the future. Gaining experience in the all-around as a freshman certainly should help her do that.

“It’s an honor as a freshman to get in there and contribute on all four events,” Drass said. “We have confidence in Lauren and we believe she’s got the right kind of mental attitude as well as physical attributes to come in and contribute at each and every meet. We think she can continue to get better, so we’re going to continue to push her.

“Hopefully next year, as we lose Sarah, Mary steps into Sarah’s spot, and Lauren steps into Mary’s spot, and we have someone else that can step into Lauren’s spot.”

Missouri competes next against Centenary College at 4 p.m. Sunday in Shreveport, La. The meet, the first of two the Tigers have scheduled against Centenary this season, was moved from Friday because of bad weather. Missouri is 4-1 this season, while Centenary has yet to win and is 0-3.

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