Missouri gymnastics loses to No. 3 Florida

Friday, March 14, 2014 | 11:03 p.m. CDT; updated 4:15 p.m. CDT, Saturday, March 15, 2014
Florida gymnastics claimed a victory over Missouri on Friday at the Hearnes Center.

COLUMBIA — For the Missouri gymnastics team, the math was easy.

A team score of 194.525 in the final home meet Friday against No. 3 Florida would improve the Tigers' Regional Qualifying Score. Anything less, and Missouri left its chances of qualifying for NCAA Regionals in the hands of competitors.

The math was simple. The execution wasn't so easy.

The Tigers earned solid team scores on the vault, uneven bars and floor exercise on Friday. Three falls on the balance beam, however, crippled the Tigers' team score and were a major reason Missouri missed its 194.525 benchmark in a 198.200-194.300 loss to the Gators.

Six gymnasts compete in every event, but only the top five scores count toward the total team score. The three falls on beam meant two of the routines that contained the falls had to be counted toward Missouri's team score.

"Our goals were to hit 20-24 routines to make sure we weren't counting falls," coach Shannon Welker said after the meet. "Unfortunately, we did not accomplish those goals."

Last week at Auburn, Missouri thrived on the beam with a team score of 48.825, which was the Tigers' highest scoring event of the meet.

Two of the falls on beam Friday came from juniors Laura Kappler and Briana Conkle, who both set career highs in the event at Auburn. In spite of the mistakes, Kappler and Conkle both posted scores at or above 9.725 in two other events against the Gators.

"I thought we did a nice job on vault, bars and floor," Welker said. "We just have that elusive fourth event that seems to get away from us."

Missouri's team score on the beam of 47.550 was its lowest event score of the season on any apparatus.

"That's what happens sometimes. I don't think it was anything in particular," Welker said. "Some of our upperclassmen need to step up when it's important to do that."

Multiple freshmen were bright spots for Missouri on Friday. Angie Kern led the Tigers in vault, Alyson Heimsath contributed Missouri's highest score on the beam, and Kern and Anna Bowers posted team highs on the floor.

The freshman presence was welcome as Missouri junior Rachel Updike missed her third consecutive meet with concussion-like symptoms.

Updike has won 19 individual events so far in 2014 and has the highest all-around average on the team. She will continue to be evaluated as Missouri prepares for the Southeastern Conference Championships, which begin March 22.

Welker said there isn't a certain score the team is pushing for at the SEC Championships, but anything below 194.525 won't bring up Missouri's RQS.

Entering Friday, Missouri's scores tied them with West Virginia and Utah State at No. 35. Only the top 36 teams qualify.

The updated rankings come out on Monday.

After that, the Tigers will know where they stand and how they need to prepare for the conference championships.

"I think you go in and work on it and try to do some pressure situations in the gym," Welker said. "I think we're doing the right things in practice, quite honestly. Now really it's up to the competitors. It's in their hands."

Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.

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