COLUMBIA — The Missouri gymnastics team is going for a special achievement. It will not be easy to accomplish, but this year the Tigers think they have one of their best chances to get there.
Saturday, Missouri will host the NCAA South Central Regional at Hearnes Center. That home-gym advantage is one of the reasons it thinks it can become the program's first team to advance to the NCAA National Championship.
NCAA South Central Regional
TEAMS: Georgia, Oregon State, Minnesota, Iowa, North Carolina and Missouri
WHEN: 6 p.m.
WHERE: Hearnes Center
Missouri coach Rob Drass said playing host provides Missouri with a few headaches, such as a missing piece of equipment and locker room issues. Drass has also played concierge this week, helping incoming opponents find places to eat.
Drass said he would much rather host than not host, though, and he thinks the home crowd could be a big part of sending Missouri to the national competition.
Georgia is among the six teams that will compete Saturday night, with the top two advancing to the national championship in Gainesville, Fla. Georgia has won the past five national championships, and it is currently ranked No. 5 in the country. Oregon State, Minnesota, Iowa and North Carolina join Missouri and Georgia.
The Tigers haven’t seen any of those teams this season, but they did beat Oregon State last season at Hearnes Center.
Senior Sarah Shire said she thinks Missouri received a good draw and that things are in the Tigers’ favor. Shire has accomplished many things this season, most recently the Big 12 All-Around Championship March 27 at the conference meet in Lincoln, Neb. Shire said she is looking to be Missouri’s first-ever national champion.
“The sky’s the limit for Sarah,” sophomore Mary Burke said. “I can see her as one of the top gymnasts in the country.”
Drass said he thinks Shire could go farther if the team goes farther.
“She could win a national championship on any event or in the all-around,” Drass said. “If she has that supporting cast with the team there, her chances are much better. She’s still got a chance if she does individual, but that experience becomes different without your team there. If we can get that team there, I think she’s got a better chance.”
The regional meet will start at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Hearnes Center.