The Maneater

No. 20 Missouri gymnastics’ mistakes keep team from reaching potential

The veteran squad’s experience has failed the Tigers, who have proved to be far less mentally sharp than what was expected of them.

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Missouri gymnastics should have beaten No. 6 Alabama back in January.

The Crimson Tide had seen its half-point lead in the third rotation drop just as abruptly as its first two beam performers, each of whom touched the floor midway through their routines in what should have been a disastrous turn of events for the home team.

Mizzou, fresh off of a dominating victory against another top-10 team in Arkansas the week before, looked poised to use its impending comeback as a springboard to launch its season to new heights and finally meet the team’s lofty outside expectations.

However, juniors Michaelee Turner and Brooke Kelly each fell on their ensuing floor routines and the meet was lost, the potential momentum gone with it.

Fast forward to the present and not much has changed.

Three quarters into the 2018 season, No. 19 Mizzou has yet to click into the gear that it was expected to. While it’s true that a team’s overall record is not as important in gymnastics as the points scored, the fact that Mizzou’s veteran-heavy team is 6-6 (2-5 in the Southeastern Conference) is worrying.

In returning 11 gymnasts from the nation’s No. 17 program last season, the Tigers should, in theory, have a mental advantage over their less experienced opponents.

But individual errors, such as the ones that blew the meet in Alabama, have been far too common and have halted both the progress and the promise of the team. The Tigers have posted 23 event scores below 9.6 this season, which means they average roughly two routines with significant point deductions for every three rotations.

In addition to making too many mistakes, the Tigers’ routines are often not good enough even when they aren’t marred by errors. Mizzou’s individual gymnasts have only won seven of their 36 events, and as a team, they average less than 49 points in all four events.

Quite simply, Mizzou has proven to be too inconsistent this year to be counted on to be able to turn these statistics around before the end of the season.

While senior Kennedi Harris is yet to score below 9.8 in her team anchoring floor routine, she is the only gymnast that the Tigers can truly rely on to get a result when it matters most. And Harris’ contributions are limited due to the fact that she only competes in two events.

Even as sophomore Aspen Tucker and junior Madeleine Huber have impressed this season after having been given more prominent roles on the team, they, too, are not immune to slipping up in important moments.

In addition to Tucker and Huber, redshirt sophomore Morgan Porter has not rediscovered the form that led her to being named the 2016 SEC Freshman of the Year since returning from tearing her Achilles tendon last season, and it seems unlikely that she will be back to her best until next season.

Without Porter, Mizzou needs its other talented gymnasts to continue to step up and start producing better results in order for the team to live up to its potential and extend its postseason past the SEC championship meet at the end of this month.

On March 2, Mizzou showed they may be on their way to doing just that. The Tigers defeated the No. 5 Florida Gators thanks to its consistency in performances, as the team only posted four scores below 9.8.

Mizzou will need to keep that level of performance up in its remaining meets if it wants to meet its expectations.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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