For the first 24 years of its gymnastics program, Missouri never scored at or above 197 points. The Tigers have done it three times in one season.
Missouri scored 197.125 at the Mizzou Invitational on Saturday, defeating Northern Illinois (192.875), Illinois State (191.750) and Centenary (191.400) at this season’s final meet at Hearnes Center.
The Tigers’ score ranked second in team history, after the 197.350 scored at this year’s Cat Classic. Missouri also added a 197.000 against Oklahoma on Feb. 29.
“I think (the 197 scores) are the difference between a team that’s going to contend and get to the national championships and a team that’s not,” Missouri coach Rob Drass said. “I’m definitely excited about getting into the 197s on a consistent basis.”
Missouri also tied team records on balance beam (49.325) and the floor exercise (49.575), even without Lauren Schwartzman, who skipped the meet because of slight tendinitis in her right foot.
Seniors Rachel Bridges (9.925) and Andrea Nervig (9.95) set career highs on floor. Bridges performed a new routine during her floor exercise.
“It’s really a step up in caliber as far as difficulty and she did it beautifully,” Drass said.
Alisha Robinson tied her school record in the all-around at 36.50. Despite winning the vault and beam and tying Nervig for the floor title, she said tight scoring from the judges might have lowered her scores, especially on bars.
“I was nervous for the (bars) dismount, and I think my whole routine was a little off,” Robinson said.
Although Robinson won the beam vault title with a 9.925, freshmen enabled Missouri to jump to big lead to open the meet. Whitney Crater and Amanda Pezzullo scored 9.90s.
“The freshmen did a great job,” Drass said. “They’re recruited to play a role and to fill in spots and that’s what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well.”Pezzullo also scored a 9.80 on beam to tie her career high and added a 9.85 on floor.
“I didn’t really feel that it was my best vault that I’ve done, but I was happy with it because I hurt my heel during warm-up,” Pezzullo said. “I was just focusing on making it rather than sticking it, but it turned out pretty well.”
Nervig said the excitement might have affected her normally consistent bars routine, in which she fell and scored a 9.20. It was Missouri’s only missed competitive routine.
“It was just off,” she said. “Too much adrenaline and too much excitement overdid it.”
Senior Lindsay Davis was not as distracted as her teammate. She rebounded from low beam scores in her previous two meets, scoring a 9.85, and her 9.775 on bars and 9.825 on beam were consistent with her season averages.
“That’s been my goal all four years to be consistent,” she said. “I don’t do the biggest tricks but I try to keep my routines consistent in meets and in practice and it seems to work.”
Drass said it is important to have reliable gymnasts such as Davis and Bridges throughout the order.
“Lindsay is just a 9.875, 9.85 every single time, does it quietly, no one really notices, and in the end you go, ‘Wow,’” Drass said. “You kind of get overlooked sometimes, but those are the athletes that as a coach you really like because it’s routine for them.”
When Missouri adds team leaders such as Schwartzman and Robinson to those dependable scores, the Tigers’ floor exercise will be tough for even the best teams.
“We’re going to be one of the best teams in the country on floor,” Drass said. “It’s a performance now and not a competition for them.”
Drass took advantage of the opportunity to rest gymnasts while the Tigers faced easier competition. Schwartzman and Jodie Heinicka (sore knees) will return for the Tigers’ next meet Thursday.