The Maneater

Three takeaways from Missouri gymnastics’ Black & Gold exhibition

Saturday’s event was highlighted by Morgan Porter’s return, the team’s depth and the debut of three freshmen.

Missouri gymnastics held its annual Black & Gold exhibition Saturday, Dec. 9, at Hearnes Center.

Head coach Shannon Welker was satisfied with the way his team performed in front of the home crowd.

“This meet gives us a wakeup call to make sure we're prepared and gives us a gauge of where we are to hit the ground running next month," Welker said in a press release. "I was very pleased with where we are. I really did like what I saw. We have a couple of things to work on, finishing a couple of routines and getting a couple more gymnasts back from minor things here and there, but we're just trying to pace ourselves.”

Here are three takeaways from the exhibition.

Morgan Porter is back

2017 has not been kind to Mizzou athletes named Porter. Freshman basketball player Michael Porter Jr. was the latest to join a group consisting of senior basketball player Bri Porter and sophomore gymnast Morgan Porter, all of whom suffered season-ending injuries this year.

However, on Saturday, Morgan Porter showed that she will be back and better than ever for the 2018 season. The 2016 SEC Freshman of the Year competed for the first time since she tore her achilles against Alabama on Jan. 20 and she did not disappoint.

Porter started the day off with a 9.725 in the vault, then tied for the team lead with a 9.8 on both the bars and the beam. The events were guest judged by wrestling head coach Brian Smith and track and field head coach Marc Burns, so the actual scores may not be as accurate as they will be once the season officially starts.

But Porter made a statement with her performance: Her leg has recovered and she is looking to dominate this season in the same way she did her freshman year.

Familiar faces continue to impress

Porter was not the only big name at the exhibition. There are 11 other gymnasts who return from last season, which Mizzou ended ranked No. 15.

Sophomore Aspen Tucker had the best all-around performance, scoring at least 9.8 in three of her four events, including a team-leading 9.825 in the vault. Senior Shauna Miller also recorded an impressive 9.775 in the vault and a 9.8 on the beam.

But the most impressive event for the team was the floor. Tucker and senior Kennedi Harris each scored 9.85 for their performances, but even they were overshadowed by junior Allison Bower’s routine, which scored the highest total of the event at 9.9.

This Tiger team lacks neither depth nor experience and is certainly looking to be one that can make a long postseason run.

Freshmen

Saturday was not only an exciting day for returning members of the team, but also new members Chelsey Christensen, Lauren Clevenger and Gabrielle Gottula. These freshmen showed they are ready to take on the 2018 season after performing very well in their events at the Black & Gold exhibition.

Christensen began her day with a 9.675 in her bar routine. Her performance was solid, with only a small hop on her landing.

Clevenger started her day strong, nailing her triple series on beam and earning a score of 9.7. Following that, Clevenger received an impressive 9.8 on her floor routine.

Gottula performed a strong beam routine, earning her a high score of 9.75. She was able to control herself well, which allowed her to end her routine confidently.

Gottula, Clevenger and Christensen will definitely be ones to lookout for during the 2018 season, and it is very clear that the returning gymnasts are excited to welcome these freshmen to the team, as they stood by cheering loudly. The team’s support allowed the freshmen to start their gymnastic career confidently, which showed through their high-scoring performances at the Black & Gold exhibition.

The Tigers’ first match will be away against Auburn on Jan. 12. The match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. CT in Auburn, Alabama.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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