COLUMBIA — If a team is only as good as its weakest link, then the Missouri gymnastics team is looking pretty strong for the postseason.
The Tigers flexed their depth Friday to beat the sixth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks, who came to Columbia and battled for early SEC bragging rights.
Coach Rob Drass called on freshman Colleen Mulcahy to compete in the first non-exhibition routine of her career Friday. Mulcahy tied freshman Rachel Updike for the team high on the bar routine with a score of 9.825 — career bests for both gymnasts. It was Updike's first time on the uneven bars. Updike now competes in every event.
“We’ve just been kind of bringing them along, getting them confident,” Drass said. “With Colleen Mulcahy, she did a great routine, 9.825. Rachel, first time she goes on the bars tonight with 9.825. Really proud of those two stepping up on bars. Hitting 49 on bars is important for us.”
The rotation switch worked. Missouri scored a 49.050 to give them the lead after two events.
“It’s awesome to have that kind of depth,” senior Allie Heizelman said. “Any team wants that."
Mulcahy might have already been in the rotation, but she has been recovering from a stress fracture in her back that occured in a high school competition.
“I thought I did a really good job,” Mulcahy said. “It’s nice to get out there and compete with the team.”
Missouri had some falls on the beam in the third event, costing them the lead. But that set the stage for senior Mary Burke, for her home last routine of her college career.
"We closed it out strong after having a little bit of trouble going to floor," Drass said. "And that’s probably, I think one of our best floor performances."
Updike tied her career high with a 9.925, and Mary Burke scored a 9.900. The Tigers took the lead back for the win, 196.100 – 195.450.
"I think the best teams comeback from those situations, and that’s what we were able to do tonight," Burke said.
Winning a game against a highly ranked opponent will give the Tigers some confidence going into the postseason as well as for changing conferences next season, they said.
"It’s good to see an SEC team and know that we can hang with those guys too," Drass said.
The gymnasts agreed.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” Heizelman said. “I think also just going into the SEC knowing that we belong. It’s not that we’re going to come in and get beat by everyone. We made a statement.”
There were a lot of tears at the end of the night, with video tributes playing on a big screen for the three seniors on the team. The videos were highlights of the women’s meets as young girls.
"Tears, dripping down my face," Heizelman said, describing the video tribute. "But it’s cool to see how I’ve gone from the eight-year-old girl who didn’t know what she wanted with her life and just did gymnastics for fun."
"And now I’m here at Mizzou and I still love the sport just as much, but I’m able to contribute to a team and be a part of a college and that’s just a really cool feeling."
The Tigers will compete next at 4 p.m. in Norman, Okla. in the Big 12 championship meet.