Travel doesn't faze Missouri gymnasts

Friday, February 15, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST
Missouri freshman gymnast Rachel Henderson sprints toward the vault in the Tigers' meet against LSU on Feb. 8 at the Hearnes Center.

COLUMBIA — Freshman gymnast Rachel Henderson stands alert, hands behind her back, smiling and ready for practice to begin.

Despite being a freshman, "Hendy," as her teammates call her, is used to the busy schedules and frequent travel that being a collegiate gymnastics entails.

Friday's meet

Missouri at No. 17 Kentucky

WHEN: 6 p.m.
WHERE: University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.
TV: The meet will air on ESPNU at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21.

The meet follows the Tigers' 197.275-194-575 loss to No. 8 LSU last Friday. Several Tigers set or matched career high scores, including freshman Miranda Eubank with a 9.750 on vault, senior Tori Howard with a 9.850 on vault, and sophomore Rachel Updike with a 9.900 on beam. Updike tied for first in the event.

Sophomore Laura Kappler made her first appearance as an all-arounder in the meet, scoring 38.175.

Missouri has faced Kentucky 13 times with an overall record of 12-1 in the series.

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"I'm from Oklahoma, and there aren't a lot of Oklahoma teams, so we'd travel to Texas a lot," Henderson said, referring to her club team the Mat Trotters from Oklahoma City.

This travel experience will come in handy when the team heads to Lexington, Ky., to compete against the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats on Friday after two consecutive home meets.

"You always compete better in the confines of your home gym, but you still got to go out there," Tigers coach Rob Drass said, adding that the large Southeastern Conference crowds help energize the team on the road.

Adding to the travel, the meet will also be the second of only three televised meets this season for the Tigers.

Although Henderson is excited to be on television, she remains unfazed.

"We're good at adapting," she said. "We go in with the same mindset."

The travel itself brings the team closer. When you're together on a bus for that long, you watch movies, share stories and really bond, Drass said.

"It's always important for a team to be tight," he said.

As "Go, Hendy!" cheers echoed through the gym Monday while Henderson practiced the uneven bars, that didn't seem to be a problem.

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