COLUMBIA — A steady performance in all four events from the Missouri gymnastics team wasn't enough for its first conference win at No. 11 Auburn on Friday night. But at the end of the day, the final score of 197.000-194.600 is much more valuable for Missouri than what the loss might insinuate.
This late in the season, wins and losses mean very little. What really counts is the Regional Qualifying Score, which Missouri improved upon in the meet at Auburn.
It's the score that will get Missouri into the NCAA Regionals — the first step on the way to the National Championships — not its win-loss record. With its team score on Friday, Missouri improved its Regional Qualifying Score from 194.650 to 194.745. Every decimal point counts: at the beginning of the week, just 0.185 points separated Missouri from a non-qualifying position.
On Friday, Missouri's best event was the balance beam: the team score of 48.825 was Missouri's highest on the apparatus this season. Career-highs from junior Briana Conkle (9.825) and freshman Alyson Heimsath (9.775) and a solid routine from freshman Sasha Sander (9.800) contributed to the high team score.
Sophomore Blair Elmore competed in all four events Friday for the first time in her career — she was the only Missouri gymnast to do so. Her all-around score of 38.600 was the highest from a sophomore this season.
It was the second consecutive meet for Missouri without Rachel Updike, who was injured after a fall in warmups last week at LSU. The junior's average score on vault, floor exercise and in the all-around are tops for the Tigers this season.
Anna Bowers also did not compete at Auburn. The freshman, whose Regional Qualifying Score on floor exercise leads Missouri, was held out of the lineup with an ankle injury.
Missouri closes out the regular season Friday at home against the defending national champion Florida Gators. The meet is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
Supervising editor is Wade Livingston.