Landreth gets early start on Missouri gymnastics team

Thursday, February 23, 2012 | 8:50 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — It was only a few months ago that Kelsy Landreth was sitting in a high school class in Mexico, Mo. 

On Thursday, Landreth, a member of the Missouri gymnastics team, was preparing at Hearnes Center for the Tigers match Friday against the Bowling Green Falcons. 

Landreth, who graduated high school a semester early after completing all of her credits, was able to enroll at MU for the spring semester and become eligible to compete for the gymnastics team after sitting out the first two meets of the season. 

Oddly enough, Landreth’s path to Division I college gymnastics started out as a joke between her and Missouri coach Rob Drass back in August. 

“It was kind of spur of the moment, we were just talking about it kind of as a joke,” said Landreth, who had already been offered a scholarship for the fall of 2012 at Missouri. 

However, that joke soon became a reality after Landreth told Drass that graduating a semester early was possible.

Additionally, a scholarship had recently opened up after junior Lauren Swankoski had to leave the program in July and retire from gymnastics because of a career-ending wrist injury. 

“When a scholarship did open, then we had to make the serious phone call,” Drass said.  “It was like ‘I know we were kind of joking around when we talked about this, but is that something you are interested in doing, because we can make that happen if you want to.’”

Landreth, who was ready to move on from high school, accepted the scholarship and enrolled at MU as an art major. 

She only competes on vault for the Tigers because of a lingering ankle injury but has already made her mark on the Missouri gymnastics program.

In the Tigers' last meet Feb. 17 against Oklahoma, Landreth posted a 9.925 on the vault, a score that ties her for 10th best all-time at Missouri. Only four other gymnasts have surpassed that score, including Landreth’s freshman teammate Rachel Updike, who posted 9.950 on the vault Jan. 28 during Missouri’s victory over Nebraska.

Landreth said she has found a home with the Missouri gymnastics team, and said she prefers the team aspect in college to the emphasis on the individual in high school club gymnastics.

“It’s a lot different, but it’s a good change,” Landreth said. 

Drass claims Landreth’s transition to college was aided by junior Sandra Ostad, who went through a similar process coming to Missouri from Oslo, Norway, in the spring of 2010.  Drass said Ostad has helped Landreth’s transition go more smoothly than her own. 

Drass said Landreth’s role will increase down the road as she gains more experience and becomes fully healthy. 

However, he thinks her exposure to the team this year is important as the team, which is off to one of the best starts with a 6-3 record, has a legitimate chance to go back to the NCAA Championships for the second time in three seasons.

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