As a freshman, everything went right for Missouri gymnast Adrianne Perry. Almost.
She won six event titles, was Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year and competed in all four events at the NCAA Championship Meet. In the regular season, Perry won the all-around competition eight times and finished 14th in the event at the NCAA Championships.
Still, one thing was missing from Perry’s freshman season: The Tigers did not qualify for the NCAA Championships as a team.
“Making it as a team would be even more exciting and rewarding than making it as an individual,” Perry said.
Since school started, Perry has been working out five days per week. In the summer, she trained three to five days per week.
When the season starts in January, Perry hopes to performing routines that are consistently as difficult as the nation’s best. She is adding at least one new skill to all of her routines.
The biggest changes will be in the vault and the uneven bars. On vault, Perry will now land backwards, which coach Rob Drass said judges view as equally difficult, but makes it easier for her to stick the landing. On uneven bars, Perry is adding a difficult release move.
“I think those two changes will be the biggest, most helpful to her all-around score,” Drass said.
She added some difficulty to her floor exercise, but won’t be making big changes in the balance beam because she was one place away from earning All-America honors at the NCAA Championships last year. Barring injury or a mistake at the regional meet, Drass said he thinks Perry will return to the NCAA Championships.
“I would think that as a freshman it’s a lot harder to make it than as a sophomore,” Drass said. “Once you’ve been there, the judges expect you to be there, and you’ve kind of got all the politics working for you, so if she can stay healthy and consistent, I would expect her to make a return trip to nationals and hopefully lead our team there.”
The team aspect is something that most gymnasts learn in college, because club gymnastics is based more on the individual. After the NCAA Championships, Drass said Perry got to see how close MU is to being one of the nation’s top teams.
“Her experience from last year, being at the national championships and seeing the teams that were there, what their skill level was and what they were doing, really helped her see that this team belongs at nationals too and has the ability to get there,” Drass said. “It helps her know that that’s possible and not just something the coaches want.”
If the Tigers are among the top 12 teams in the nation come April, Perry should again be one of their top gymnasts, especially if she continues to compete in all four events, which Drass said is likely. Also of importance is her experience and leadership.
Perry had an outstanding freshman year, but there was a time when she struggled. Midway through the season, Perry became overwhelmed with the amount of competitions. In club gymnastics, she said she competed about one third as much as in college.
“As an all-arounder, I think I just kind of got fizzled out, right in the heart of the season,” Perry said. “Luckily I was able to work through it, but this year it is going to help knowing what to expect.”
That, as well as her experience competing in big meets, has increased Perry’s influence, especially among the freshmen.
“By the time you account for her work ethic and what she does in the gym and how she does it, I think she assumes a leadership role,” Drass said. “People look to see, ‘obviously she was successful last year, so I’ll try to do what she does.’”
Perry and Alicia Hatcher were important in the Tigers’ success as freshmen last season, and with five healthy freshmen this season, they could play vital roles for the team.
Perry said the key to her successful freshman season was that she was consistent, so if she can help some of the freshmen do that, the NCAA Championships could be in their future.
“I feel like individually I could,” Perry said. “I feel like we could as a team, I think we just need more consistency.”