The GymInfo Preseason Coaches’ Poll is released today, but the MU gymnastics team isn’t exactly holding its breath. If tradition stands, Missouri will probably be ranked around where it ended last season, No. 14.
“Generally the rankings are pretty close to how you finish the year before,” coach Missouri Rob Drass said. “I would expect most of the same people will end up in the same places. In gymnastics, usually the best teams get the best recruiting classes.”
That’s not to say the gymnasts don’t take notice.
“Oh, everybody is excited about it,” Drass said. “It kind of marks the beginning of our season.”
The team started practice in September, but the start of competition is on the horizon. The Black and Gold meet is Dec. 9, and the first intercollegiate meet is Jan. 5.
The start is coming quickly for some. Sophomore Alicia Hatcher was surprised to find that the rankings are coming out.
“Oh, they do?” she said.
Upon confirmation, she was excited to see where the Tigers land.
“Absolutely, it will be a good idea of where everybody else thinks we stand,” Hatcher said. “Hopefully, we will like where it says we are, and if not, it will just give us more encouragement to prove them wrong.”
The first poll is unscientific, however, so the gymnasts are careful not to look too closely into it.
“It’s interesting to find how well they think we are going to do,” junior Katie Kluga said. “I don’t put too much interest into it because it is really up to us in what the real rankings are going to be.”
Unlike later rankings, the coaches poll is based only on opinion. This is the only time a coaches poll is released. In early January, the teams will be ranked by their highest scores. Midway through the season, the rankings are determined by each team’s average score. Finally, in February, the Regional Qualifying Score takes over. The RQS takes each team’s top six scores, three of which must be away, drops the highest score, and averages the other five. The RQS is used to determine who qualifies for the regional meets.
To sum it up, from here on out: “You score big, you get ranked high,” Drass said. “You don’t score big, you fall.”
So where did Drass rank the Tigers? Despite losing three valuable seniors, Drass voted Missouri up two places to No. 12. The vote is symbolic, in a way, because the top 12 teams in the nation make the NCAA Championships.
“Basically, our goal is to make it to the national championships,” Drass said. “And we weren’t quite there last year.”
The Tigers’ high last season was No. 7 and their low No. 16, so No. 12 fit in the middle. MU finished third in the NCAA Southeast Regional, missing out on the NCAA Championships by one place. This year, the five healthy freshmen are likely to play a role in the Tigers’ NCAA Championship aspirations.
But that is still a long way away.
“Our intersquad is next Saturday,” Hatcher said. “So it’s time to really get us into gear and get us into routine mode and get our heads on for the season.”