Lauren “Bunny” Schwartzman ran out of the locker room for Monday’s practice as cheery and energetic as her nickname. A casual observer would guess from the skip in her step that she was content with the way the season is progressing.
Schwartzman started this season ranked No. 1 in the balance beam after she scored a 10 against Iowa State on Jan. 11. It was the first perfect score on any event in the program’s 25 years. She scored 9.90s against New Hampshire on Jan. 16 and Southeast Missouri State on Jan. 25.
One wobble and a balance check during Missouri’s loss to Nebraska on Jan. 31 dropped her beam score to a 9.625 and her national ranking to No. 22.
But you would never know it by looking at her.
“It’s disappointing, but after the wobble on the series I just tried to make everything as clean and stuck as I could,” Schwartzman said. “I know what I need to work on now this week because I don’t want that same thing to happen at all the rest of the season.”
Coach Rob Drass said Schwartzman’s performance at Nebraska was unusual.
“For her, a rough routine is a 9.70 or a 9.80 so it’s really comforting as a coach to know that when an athlete’s struggling, they’re still going to hit and pop out a big score,” he said.
Schwartzman is only a sophomore, but she is starting to become a leader on the squad.
“She works through pain and she works through injury,” Drass said.
A tough gymnast, Schwartzman is reluctant to take credit, preferring to lead quietly through her actions.
“I try to be a leader but I don’t voice it so much this year.” she said. “We have really strong seniors this year that will lead more vocally, but I try to lead just by example through my work ethic, the events that I do, trying to keep people motivated, and helping them out in the gym.”
Her perfect score in the season’s first meet gave Schwartzman the motivation she needed to move past lower scores and concentrate on the next meet.
“It was exciting to start with a 10 because I knew that it was possible in the future, instead of just wondering for the rest of the season if I could score that high,” she said. “It is kind of hard because now I put the pressure on myself that I can do that well, so I should be doing that well every meet.”
Tigers host Cat Classic tonight
Schwartzman’s next chance to put up a big score will come this weekend at the 24th annual State Farm Cat Classic. The event, Missouri’s most popular meet, begins at 7 tonight at Hearnes Center. The No. 12 Tigers (2-2) will compete against Brigham Young, Kentucky, and No. 21 Penn State. The top 10 finalists in each event will advance to the individual finals at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s our premiere event and so we want to get out to have a good meet and put up a good score,” Drass said. “We’ve been dancing around records all season and we’d like to really put the whole thing together and set a new school record. I think we’ll do that if we just hit routines nice and solid and have the meet that we’ve been training for in the gym.”
Penn State steady on beam
With three gymnasts who have scored 9.90 or higher on the balance beam this year, Penn State (ranked No. 2 on beam) promises to give Schwartzman plenty of competition for the individual beam title.
“I’m trying to upgrade (my routine) for the Cat Classic if I make finals on beam, doing a new leap series,” Schwartzman said. “I’m working on a new floor pass, too, for the Cat Classic, if I make finals on floor.”
Kelley Andersen will compete on the uneven bars this weekend after sitting out the meet against Nebraska with a nagging right Achilles injury.
Drass and Schwartzman are confident that the Tigers have the chance to win the Classic for the second straight season.
“I think it will be a close match. It will be one of the better Cat Classics in a long time,” Drass said.