Missouri gymnastics prepares for Big 12 Championship meet

Thursday, March 25, 2010 | 4:14 p.m. CDT; updated 7:15 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 25, 2010
Senior gymnast Sarah Shire performs a floor routine Feb. 19 during the meet against Oklahoma at Hearnes Center.

COLUMBIA — The past two Big 12 Championship meets haven’t gone quite how the Missouri Tigers gymnastics team hoped.

In 2008, the Tigers led heading into the final rotation, before finishing the meet in third place. Last season, Missouri put up a score that would have won the 2008 meet but still managed just a third-place finish.

“We tend to fall apart on that last event,” senior Sarah Shire said. “That’s actually one of the comments that gets put out there by other teams. They say, ‘Missouri chokes in that last event.’ We don’t want to hear that, and I think that’s motivation for us.”

While the Tigers acknowledge the near misses over the past two years, that hasn’t affected their confidence heading into the 2010 Big 12 Championship meet at 2 p.m. Saturday in Lincoln.

Coach Rob Drass said this is probably the best team Missouri has had heading into a Big 12 Championship meet.

The team remains optimistic, but the mood doesn’t change this season’s conference record. Missouri went 1-2 in Big 12 competition, suffering losses to Oklahoma and Nebraska. And, after losing there on Jan. 30, the Tigers have still never won in Lincoln. Heading into this weekend, all four Big 12 teams are ranked in the top 16.

Missouri has won just one conference championship in gymnastics: the 1992 Big Eight Championship.

A team meeting Tuesday gave the Missouri upperclassmen an opportunity to inform the younger gymnasts about the structure of the four-team meet. They also discussed rule differences, goals and team unity. The meeting, according to the gymnasts, had a very positive tone and prepared them for this weekend.

Shire said it was important to educate the freshmen because the conference meet — a “scary meet” — is something that could even intimidate a gymnast with her experience.

Postseason seeding will also be on the line this weekend for the Tigers. Currently ranked No. 14 in the country, Missouri feels it could gain an even higher ranking and a better draw for the NCAA South Central Regional meet it will host on April 10.

Even though there’s a long list of potential pressures, Missouri remains confident.

“I think they feel confident,” Drass said. “I think we’ve made some statements this year with some of our performances, and I think they’re ready to write a new history, a new chapter in the book. We’ve competed for it (the Big 12 Championship) before, but I think they believe they can win it.”

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