Shire's big night pushes Tigers to victory

The senior set a career high on floor exercise and won the all-around.
Sophomore Mary Burke performs a back handspring on the balance beam during Friday's meet against Iowa State in the Hearnes Center. Burke tied for first in both floor exercise and balance beam, contributing to the Tigers' victory, 196.4 to 196.

Senior Sarah Shire helped out a cause while defeating No. 17 Iowa State on Friday night during the sixth annual Pink Out meet.

Shire finished on top of the all-around with a score of 39.600 to clinch the Big 12 opener for Missouri, but like all of the night's participating gymnasts, she donned pink in support of the meet's goal to promote cancer awareness and research. One dollar from every admission ticket sold will go to the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia for breast cancer research.

The Pink Out meet attracted the largest crowd of the season with an attendance of 3,227. Despite the crowd size and the meet being the conference opener, coach Rob Drass said his team didn't feel any extra pressure.

"What we try to do is approach each meet just like it's practice, and each practice just like it's a meet," Drass said. "We try to train at that high intensity level and we try not to do more in a meet."

Shire said the crowd motivated the team as a whole.

"Getting 3,000 fans behind us again is something we're really proud of," Shire said. "It didn't make anyone scared. It made everyone really excited."

The fans did seem to electrify the Tigers early on. Propelled by Shire's high score of 9.875 on vault, Missouri took an early 49.175-48.975 lead over Iowa State after the first rotation.

The Cyclones appeared to struggle with their landings on vault during the second rotation, and Missouri seemed much cleaner earlier on.

Things got closer after the third rotation with a fall from MU senior Brooke Boehmer on balance beam, which opened the door for the Cyclones to make a late push.

For the start of the fourth and final rotation, Iowa State cut the lead to within 0.050 of a point. But Shire and the Tigers answered with a slew of strong performances on floor exercise with almost every routine scoring higher than the last, clinching the Missouri victory 196.400-196.000.

"I just refocused and I think we did that as a team," said freshman Lauren Swankoski, who scored a 9.850 for her floor routine. "We left beam where it was, refocused for floor, and hit our routines."

Drass noticed a killer instinct arise in his squad.

"They smelled blood and went after it," Drass said. "We just went for the kill and that's one of the things I really like about this team. We're learning how to put people away when we need to."

Shire's showing of 9.950 on floor exercise was a career high in the event and capped a week during which she was recognized by the conference.

During the Lady Luck Invitational on Jan. 15 in Las Vegas, Shire achieved another career high on uneven bars, posting a 9.950. The Big 12 honored its reigning conference gymnast of the year by voting Shire gymnast of the week.

But records and awards are not what interest Shire about this year.

"Everything that I do for me is icing on the cake," she said. "It's my senior year and I'm enjoying it. I just want to have a successful season and get the team to nationals."

After Friday night, the No. 13 Tigers are 5-0. Drass said his team's poise is a driving reason for the early success.

"I think they're just more prepared and that confidence allows them to put that extra special performance out when they need to and to close out a meet and win," Drass said.

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