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Missouri's Updike leads freshman-heavy gymnastics team

Thursday, January 19, 2012 | 10:09 p.m. CST; updated 11:31 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 19, 2012
MU freshman gymnast Rachel Updike stands on top of a vault during practice Thursday at Hearnes Center. Updike won her second consecutive Newcomer of the Week title this past weekend against Southern Utah.

COLUMBIA — After being asked if growing up just miles away from Lawrence, Kan., in Olathe indicated any kind of allegiance to the Kansas Jayhawks, Rachel Updike hesitantly and quietly submitted a subdued answer.

“Growing up, yeah," she said.

Updike, a 5-foot-2 freshman on the Missouri gymnastics team, now calls Columbia home. She chose Missouri over other programs including Michigan and Oklahoma.

“I wanted to stay close to home, so I came to Mizzou,” Updike said. “When I came here, it just really felt like home and family with all the girls.” 

Updike certainly has felt at home in the first two meets of this season. For the second time she was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on Tuesday.

Updike, however, downplays her success.

“It feels good to have it, but it's not like that’s what I am trying to do,” Updike said. “I’m just going to go out and do what I can.”

According to GymInfo, the NCAA's official rankings for collegiate men and women's gymnastics, Updike is ranked first in the Big 12 on vault with an average score of 9.88 and second on the balance beam with an average score of 9.85. Nationally, those scores put her tied for 14th among all NCAA Division I gymnasts in both categories. 

While the season is still young, head coach Rob Drass sees no reason why scores like these will not continue to be the norm for Updike throughout the season. 

 “She’s capable of going out and scoring a 9.9 on any event any day, and she does it regularly in the gym,” Drass said. “She’s one of those kids that, really, what you see in the gym is what you get in the meet, and as a coach, that’s a wonderful thing.”

Updike highlights a group of five freshmen on a team that features only four upperclassmen.

Drass knows that all the freshmen will have to step up and play a significant role if the Tigers hope to make a run at qualifying for the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championship meet in Duluth, Ga., in April. He is not willing, however, to lower expectations because of a lack of college experience.

“We do have a young team, but most of these guys have been doing gymnastics since they were three or four,” Drass said. “I think lots of times people categorize someone as a freshman or sophomore or junior, and I really think that if you explain to them what the expectation is and help them to realize what that expectation is and hold them accountable to that expectation, most people will rise to that expectation to the best of their ability.”

As for Updike, Drass praised her performance to date, referring to her as a “beast” in the gym. As for her future with the Missouri gymnastics team, Drass believes the sky is the limit.

“I don’t think she has a ceiling at this point.”


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