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MU gymnasts brace for No. 6 Oklahoma

Friday, February 17, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:58 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vault hasn’t been the Missouri gymnastics team’s strongest event this year, but you wouldn’t have known that Saturday.

The Tigers’ vault team posted its best score of the season and the highest score of the night for the Tigers, a 49.075, en route to a road win against Illinois. Junior Whitney Crater led the way with a season-high of her own on vault, a 9.875 to win the event title.

It was one of two titles on the night for Crater. She also won the floor exercise with a 9.850.

Crater said the team had been focusing on polishing up landings and finishes in practice, which helped her throughout the meet. She attributed her improvement on vault, though, to modifying her approach.

“I have a lot of power,” she said. “And sometimes that is a liability.”

Instead of running as hard as she can towards the vault, Crater said she’s had to learn to slow down.

“In the gym I worked on softening up my run and my entry ... which turned out to be a success this past weekend,” she said.

A former dancer in high school, Crater said she especially enjoys the floor exercise, which allows her to combine her dance and gymnastics training. Vault is a close second. “She had a fantastic meet against Illinois,” coach Rob Drass said. “She’s really starting to get back into her own now and be someone we can rely on for some big scores on floor and vault.”

The No. 11 Tigers will need those big scores when they face No. 6 Oklahoma tonight at Hearnes Center. The Sooners are ranked as the fifth- and sixth-best vault and floor team in the country. It will be Missouri’s last Big 12 match-up before the Big 12 Championships in March.

“Oklahoma is a very, very solid team,” Drass said. “They’re the highest ranked team in the Big 12 so obviously they’re doing something right.”

The Tigers will also be looking for their senior and freshman classes to continue their strong performances. Drass said both have been consistently impressive this season. While he said he expected the leadership from the seniors, the freshmen have been a welcome surprise.

“They’re not freshmen,” he said. “They don’t act like freshmen. They don’t compete like freshmen. They don’t look like freshmen. I’m just very happy that they’re here.”

— Dave Mezz

COLUMBIA COLLEGE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL:

The Cougars won 81-71 in an American Midwest Conference game at William Baptist on Thursday after shooting 82 percent from the free-throw line. They improved to 15-11 overall and 9-2 in the AMC where they are tied for first.

Amanda Koetting led Columiba College with 24 points, half of which came from the 3-point line. Jessica Wilkerson, the current AMC leader in steals, had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Jessica Wilson (13 points), Laura Elliot (11) and Rachel Davis (10) all reached double figures.

The Lady Cougars’ season continues at home in the Arena of Southwell Complex at 2 p.m. Saturday against Hannibal-LaGrange.


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