Missouri gymnastics team set for Beauty and the Beast meet

Thursday, January 31, 2013 | 9:37 p.m. CST; updated 11:40 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 31, 2013
MU gymnast Rachel Updike dismounts from the uneven bars at the Mizzou Pink Out meet against Alabama.

COLUMBIA — Justin Bieber's "Beauty and a Beat" featuring Nicki Minaj blasted in the background as the members of Missouri's gymnastics team flipped, cartwheeled and somersaulted across the floor.

When the music stopped, the gymnasts requested its return, some commenting on how the Bieber jam would be a good fit for Friday's meet.

Missouri is set to hold the sixth annual Beauty and the Beast event Friday at the Hearnes Center, a unique event featuring simultaneous gymnastics and wrestling competitions. This year, the Missouri gymnasts will take on Southeastern Conference opponent Auburn while the wrestlers host Oklahoma State.

"It's kind of like the circus," Missouri gymnastics coach Rob Drass said.

The event usually draws big crowds. The 2008 Beauty and the Beast attracted 6,308 fans, the 12th largest crowd for the Missouri gymnastics program.

The gymnasts said they appreciate the dynamic audience that the Beauty and the Beast events draw.

"The wrestling demographic is different from the younger gymnastics crowd," senior gymnast Tori Howard said. Wrestling and gymnastics have smaller audiences at this school, she said, "so it's cool to have a shining moment."

A crossover effect occurs, and both teams gain more fans, Drass said. "Wrestling fans learn 'Wow, gymnastics is pretty cool.'"

But with such large crowds watching two simultaneous events, the question of focus arises.

"I don't want it to be distracting," Rachel Updike said. The sophomore from Olathe, Kan. has never competed in a Beauty and the Beast meet before.

However, Drass sees the crowds as a good thing. The fans can not only pump up the gymnasts, but they also can influence the judges.

"It's a subjective sport," Drass said. Hearing the roar of the crowd can make the scores go up.

The crowds and the wrestling team aren't the only things on the gymnasts' minds for this meet. Updike will be competing for the first time at the collegiate level against Auburn sophomore Brittany Webster, who trained with Updike on the Kansas Gymnastics Dance & Cheer club team.

"She was with me at every meet in club," Updike said. "It'll be good to see how we've changed."

She says the two are friends but she still looks to come out on top.

Updike, who earned her first event titles on the beam and the uneven bars last week at Air Force, is ranked 11th nationally on vault.

"Yeah, I want to beat her, but there's no rivalry," she said.

The rest of the team is also ready to focus. So much so, in fact, that when Cali Swag District's "Teach Me How to Dougie" started playing as the gymnasts practiced on the beam, not one girl stopped to "Dougie."

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