MU gymnastics earns disappointing fourth

Sunday, March 26, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:51 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

LINCOLN, Neb. — As the teams marched into Nebraska’s Bob Devaney Sports Center during Saturday’s Big 12 Conference women’s gymnastics championship, red was everywhere.

Red lights demarcated their path, leading to a red floor as spectators watched from red seats.

Even each team’s uniform was a different shade of red, candy apple for Nebraska, fire engine for Iowa State and scarlet for Oklahoma.

So, standing in sparkling gold and black, Missouri just didn’t look quite right.

Maybe it was an omen.

Still looking for their first-ever conference title, the Tigers had to settle for fourth place after scoring a 194.850.

Iowa State, which on March 5 became the first team to beat the Cornhuskers at home since 1993, did it again on Saturday, earning the championship with a 196.425. Nebraska (196.275) finished second, and Oklahoma (195.350) took third.

“You can’t make a single mistake in this conference and win,” Missouri coach Rob Drass said. “It’s a huge task. I think this conference is way harder than our regional championship is going to be. You’ve got four teams that possibly could be at the national championships side by side.”

The meet used a simultaneous format, each team competing on a different event, then marching to the next station preceded by a sign wielder in a small parade.

Although Missouri started out on its best event, the balance beam, it became apparent early that the scoring was going to be tough. Even senior Lauren Schwartzman, tied for the No. 1 beam ranking in the country, couldn’t manage more than a 9.850. She finished in a three-way tie for third.

Things began to go badly for the Tigers during their second event, the floor exercise. Several stumbles cost them valuable points early. Schwartzman again finished strong, but again she found herself with a less than stellar score: 9.775.

A strong vault and bars performance wasn’t enough, and by the end of the night Missouri was watching Iowa State and Nebraska compete for the championship. Some Tigers stood with arms folded, and the normally exuberant Schwartzman wore an expression that was less than peppy.

After the meet, she was clearly frustrated with the scoring, both for herself as well as for some of her other teammates.

“I feel like I probably had the best three events at one time tonight so far this year, and it’s upsetting to me to know that my scores don’t reflect that at all,” she said.

Still Schwartzman said there were some positives, most notably the vault performance and the team’s ability to recover from slow starts in an event.

Freshman Adrianne Perry provided another positive. She was presented with the Big 12 newcomer of the year award in a ceremony after the meet.

“She’s been a solid all-arounder for us all year long,” Drass said. “No one could be more deserving of that award than A.”

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