Marks of a champion

Alisha Robinson sets two school records to lead MU.
Sunday, February 8, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:59 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lauren Schwartzman didn’t eat parmesan chicken Saturday. Alisha Robinson didn’t go to Burger King to pick up her grilled chicken sandwich and fries; her parents brought it to her.

Superstitious by nature, Missouri gymnasts have routines as they get ready for each meet. They did things a little differently Saturday, a night that saw the Tigers struggling to put up winning scores.

The team must have followed its premeet routines to the letter Friday, though. The team handily won the four-way Cat Classic, shattering three school team records as well as three individual records.

Robinson earned a 39.65 to lead MU to a record-breaking 197.350 all-around score that night. Her 9.925 on vault and 9.975 on the floor exercise also set records.

“Alisha had a great meet tonight; she really put things together,” coach Rob Drass said. “I expect her to do it again and again now.”

Robinson followed Schwartzman, who also scored a 9.975, on the floor. Each received a 10 from one of the two judges.

The uneven bars were the biggest hurdle for the Tigers throughout the two-day meet. Showing mastery of the apparatus Friday, Jodie Heinicka earned a school record 9.95.

“It’s maybe our best event scoring-wise, but we’ve really been shooting ourselves in the foot just not putting it all together,” Drass said.

“I think we had a little confidence problem going into bars; we came out of it with a huge confidence booster by hitting that and then were really comfortable and confident. The home crowd just really helps a lot. It made it easy for us.”

Heinicka struggled Saturday, falling during her routine while moving to the lower uneven bar. She earned a 9.2.

“I was trying to hit all my handstands, and I just pulled a little too much,” Heinicka said. “I was going for the 10, and sometimes it just doesn’t work.”

Robinson was the only gymnast who improved her performance on the second day of the meet. She earned a 9.9 on the bars to win and also won the vault (9.9). She struggled on the balance beam, though, falling off after a series of back handsprings.

“I knew right after my back handspring that I was out, but the beam coach always tells me I can’t stop, so I went,” Robinson said.

A step out of bounds on her second tumbling pass took her out of medal contention on the floor exercise.

“That’s my biggest downfall, going out,” she said. “It’s usually not that pass I go out on, but I had a little more power than what I expected and it went out on me.”

Schwartzman struggled with her floor routine Saturday as well, a night when she thought about performing a different routine.

“I warmed up a different pass to see if I could do it,” she said. “I decided to play it safe because we knew the scoring was tighter.”

Schwartzman earned second place on the balance beam with a 9.9. She performed directly after winner Kari Lords of Brigham Young, who had Saturday’s highest score, 9.95.

“I know Kari, and I know she’s gonna lead; she’s ranked nationally on beam,” Schwartzman said. “It’s good to follow someone that’s solid because you want to follow someone that can set you up for a good enough score.”

The judges’ tighter scoring on the second night was expected, but it made for lower scores.

“Judges knew coming into tonight’s competition that it was the top 10 from each event and so they were going to have to be tighter to make the scores farther apart,” Schwartzman said.

Drass and his gymnasts know that although they can’t control judges, they can control hitting their routines. The team did that Friday, setting itself an exciting benchmark with its all-around score.

“I thought about it all night long; I couldn’t sleep I was so excited,” Drass said. “My wife thought I was crazy because I was up to about 4:30 in the morning tossing in bed. I was almost giddy with excitement.”

Despite the record-breaking score, expectations for the future are higher.

“We really did something special on Friday night and at the same time it should be commonplace,” Drass said.

“This team didn’t do more than what I see them do every single day, but they had the confidence to do it in competition. When you practice well, you’re going to be successful in competition. And we finally started to figure that out.”

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