Finding their balance

MU gymnasts inching their way to great season
Sunday, February 18, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:44 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

A four-inch wide balance beam doesn’t leave much room for error, and the Missouri women’s gymnastics team has learned that all too well this season.

The event has plagued the Tigers in almost every competition, and Friday’s meet against Centenary was no different, with the team suffering two falls off the apparatus.


MU gymnast Nikki Bowman performs during Friday’s meet. The balance beam has troubled the Tigers all season, but their confidence hasn’t fallen. (EDDIE QUINONES/Missourian)

“We dug a hole, and we have to climb out of it,” Missouri coach Rob Drass said. “We can hit beam. We should hit beam. We’re not hitting beam. And I don’t even know why. You ask any of the athletes, they don’t know why. So, is there an issue there? Yeah. Is it a big issue? No. I think it’s a confidence thing.”

Even with their beam demons, the team still managed its season-high meet score in the 195.325-188.925 victory and tumbled to season event highs on the vault and floor exercise.

“I think we’re really confident on three events,” Drass said. “We’re really great on three events.… I think you can see the writing on the wall. We’re going to be a 49 team on beam. We just need one more person to stay on one more time.”

The news on the beam isn’t all doom and gloom. The gymnasts who did stay on all posted relatively high scores, especially after starting the rotation with a fall.

“I think the way we approached beam this week was much better as a team,” Drass said. “We were aggressive. The mistakes we made were aggressive. You know if you’re going to make a mistake, let’s make an aggressive one, and that was our thought.”

No one personified that aggressiveness more than junior Julie Abaray, whose 9.850 winning beam score came a week after she fell off the apparatus.

“I think I’m starting to finally get my confidence back on beam,” Abaray said of her season-high beam score. “It’s been a struggle for me all season. I know I can hit my series. It’s just hitting it under pressure and when I have to.”

Abaray also claimed the uneven bars and floor individual event titles, scoring her personal best for both events.

The beam problems haven’t been because of a lack of attention. The gymnasts spent much of the week doing “intersquads” on beam, where they warmed up and went through their beam routines as if they were in competition.

“I think we’re getting more confident on beam,” freshman Danielle Guider said. “The more intersquads we do in the gym, I feel like we’re building our confidence, and it just makes us more ready when we go out there.”

The format certainly benefited Guider, who not only scored her personal best on beam, but also tied her individual record on floor.

Drass said it’s only a matter of time before the entire team is hitting beam like the other three events. In other words, it’s only a matter of inches — four to be exact.

“This team is inches away from not being just a good team, but a great team,” Drass said, “as good as we ever had.”

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