Internal competition strengthens Missouri gymnastics team

Thursday, March 15, 2012 | 7:34 p.m. CDT; updated 10:09 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 15, 2012
Allie Heizelman and teammates cheer on Taylor Medrea during her floor routine against Oklahoma on Feb. 17 at Hearnes Center.

COLUMBIA — Freshman Colleen Mulcahy has not yet posted a score in a meet for the Missouri gymnastics team this season. In fact, her only action thus far has been three exhibition routines on the uneven bars.

But as Tigers coach Rob Drass knows, Mulcahy’s role on the team is just as vital to the Tigers' success as anyone else on the team. Internal competition among the team during practice has helped team members to stay focused and sharp on their routines.

“It’s really about that push that makes your team stronger, not necessarily a top pull,” Drass said. “When the bottom’s pushing you up and you know that if you don’t do better than the exhibition gymnasts then you lose your spot to them, that keeps pushing you up an extra tenth or an extra half a tenth of a point.”

Drass said that Mulcahy has helped provide that push from her exhibition spot on the uneven bars, which is not the Tigers' best event. It is the team’s deepest event, however, and Drass uses performances in practice each week to decide who will compete during meets.

“Yesterday we did bars as an intra-squad and we had 10 people on it and all 10 hit their routines,” said Drass. “It’s a matter of who is going to stick their landing or do a little bit stronger that particular day.”

Drass believes Mulcahy, an Orland Park, Ill., native, could work her way into the rotation for the uneven bars as championship season approaches. 

“Her consistency isn’t quite where we want it yet, but it’s getting there,” Drass said. “The last couple of meets she has exhibitioned, and she’s been tying people in the line-up, and as her conditioning gets better and everything else, she has a chance to make a run at the lineup.” 

If not for an injury Mulcahy sustained in her senior year of high school competition, she might already be in the rotation. A stress fracture in her back kept her from practicing with the Tigers until October of this year, months after the team began to train.

Mulcahy said the injury is still lingering, but that it is not enough to keep her out of the gym. 

Mulcahy said her teammates have been nothing but supportive, even as she tries to push one of them out of their spot on the uneven bars rotation. 

“Even though I haven’t competed, they are still behind me 100 percent,” she said.

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