Tiger gymnasts put out Flames

For the second straight meet, Missouri’s gymnastics team posted its best score of the season en route to defeating the Illinois-Chicago Flames 195.4-190.5 Friday night at the Hearnes Center.

But MU coach Rob Drass thought his club’s performance merited more than a 0.005 increase over its Jan. 25 mark against Nebraska.

“I think our performance tonight was way better than we had in the Nebraska meet,” said Drass, who noticed sharper focus and attention to detail from his team in practice all week. “It’s hard to compare scores from one place to another.”

Drass said the judging during Friday’s meet was tight.

“I think it’s a frustration level sometimes when you hit a routine, and it’s better than the one you did a week before, and you score lower,” he said. “That’s always something that affects your self-esteem, but they deal with this all the time.”

Sophomore Sarah Shire captured her second all-around title of the season. The USA National Team member set career highs in the all-around (39.375) and uneven bars (9.875). Missouri (3-1) also took second and third place in the all-around, with junior Adrianne Perry and senior Ashley Khederian scoring 39.125 and 38.825, respectively.

“There’s so many good girls on this team, and they’re pushing me in the gym every week, every day,” Shire said. “And there’s not always going to be the same person up on top. It’s always somebody new. It’s always somebody coming up. It keeps me on my toes.”

Freshman Lauren Stephenson scored a career-high 9.8 on the vault, but MU tallied a season-low of 48.600 in the event.

Perry’s 9.575 on the vault was her lowest mark in any event this season, and three other Tigers posted their lowest vault scores of the season.

Following a disappointing vault performance, the Tigers rebounded, posting a season-high 48.925 on the uneven bars. Shire’s 9.875 anchored Missouri, while junior Alicia Hatcher and Perry scored 9.85 and 9.825, respectively. Hatcher attributed MU’s success on the bars to pressure sets, which aim to simulate a meet environment, that the Tigers ran during practices leading up to the meet.

“I think they helped our entire bar team with confidence,” said Hatcher, who finished third or higher in each of her three events. “On Wednesday, we hit 7-for-7, and I think that really gave us the boost of confidence we needed for this weekend.”

Missouri’s 49.000 on the balance beam was 0.1 shy of its season high. Sophomore Danielle Guider turned in her best score of the meet with a 9.750, helping the Tigers beat the Flames (1-3) by 2.050 on the beam.

Like the balance beam, MU seized the top five spots in the floor exercise. Hatcher’s 9.775 was a career high.

Missouri’s 3-1 start is its best since 1993 and has the Tigers ranked No. 14 in the nation. Drass credited MU’s success to depth.

“If someone’s feeling really tired or not feeling their greatest or just needs a good kick in the butt one day, they’ve got someone breathing down their neck,” he said. “They need to stay focused and stay sharp, and that helps the team when you get into a pressure situation.”

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