Lauren Schwartzman is relaxing into perfection.
As Missouri intensifies its efforts for precisely pointed toes, stuck landings and smiling showmanship, Schwartzman has found herself easing out of superstitions.
She always eats Parmesan chicken the night before meets, wears the same pair of socks on meet days and styles her hair the same way, down to the order of the rubber bands holding it in place.
In the postseason, though, Schwartzman found herself coloring her hair and not worrying about whether her preferred premeet meal is on the menu at away meets.
“I’m not really as bad now as I was as at the beginning of the season,” Schwartzman said. “I’ve realized it’s not the things that happen before the meet, it’s the things I do at the meet that count.”
Schwartzman, the Big 12 Conference balance beam champion, hopes to place individually at Saturday’s Northeast Regional Championship in University Park, Pa., at 6 p.m. Although she and Alisha Robinson have the best chance to place as individuals, their hopes are pinned primarily on the team.
No. 16 Missouri is focused on qualifying for the NCAA national championship as a team. To do so, it will need to place first or second at what is possibly the toughest regional.
“I think, and I think most coaches would agree, that it’s the toughest of the six regionals,” Missouri coach Rob Drass said. “But we really feel good about our capabilities and our chances of moving on.”
The Tigers are seeded third, behind No. 4 Georgia and No. 9 Iowa, which defeated the Tigers at Hearnes Center 196.3-195.350 on Jan. 11.
“We know that unless Georgia has some pretty big mistakes we’re not going to beat them,” Schwartzman said. “But on any day, any team can be better than anyone else. Hopefully on Saturday it would be nice if myself as well as my team could be better than everyone else.”
Except for possible surprises on vault, the Tigers will likely keep their lineups similar to what they were at the Big 12 Championships, where MU placed third, five-tenths of a point behind Iowa Sate.
Drass has kept Lindsay Davis, 2003 Big 12 vaulting champion, out of the vaulting lineup all season, but said he is considering inserting her into the lineup instead of Katie Roets, who has appeared regularly.
“There may be one or two changes just to really get the athletes that are the healthiest, most confident and really hitting the most cylinders right now in the lineup,” Drass said.
Vault is the Tigers’ strongest event, on which they rank No. 15. The everyday lineup, which includes Robinson, specialist Whitney Crater and Schwartzman, has scored a 9.8 or above on 45 of 52 vaults.
“Everybody plays a role, and what it comes down to is five great routines on each event,” Drass said.