Gymnastics ousted by No. 8 Auburn despite record performances

Gymnastics ousted by No. 8 Auburn despite record performances

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By Joey Gjata, 23 Sports

Friday, Feb. 20-

The Missouri Gymnastics team continued to perform at a high level Friday evening but fell short of coming away with what would have been a massive home victory. After coming off a season-high score of 195.975 at second ranked Florida last weekend, the Tigers posted another quality score-line in a tough, losing effort to No. 8 Auburn, 196.875 to 195.800.

Mizzou began the meet on its most reliable event–the vault. The apparatus has been kind to the Tigers this year, as they have eclipsed the 49.000 mark in the last five consecutive meets, including this evening’s respectable 49.125.

Freshman phenom Shauna Miller played another vital role on vault, as she easily claimed the top spot with a program record-tying routine of 9.975. Senior Laura Kappler continued the record-setting trend with a 9.850, which marks her seventeenth event on the year with a score of at least 9.800. The Indiana native finished fourth on vault.

Next up, Missouri flew through the air on the uneven parallel bars. Three gymnasts recorded superb scores of 9.825 to lead the team to a 48.950 on the second rotation. Seniors Briana Conkle and Becca Johnson along with Miller grabbed the honors and in doing so, Johnson set a personal record of her own by scoring at least 9.800 in her last six meets.

Halfway through the meet, Auburn held a slim 98.400 to 98.075 lead with the balance beam and floor exercises on deck.

On the beam, Missouri continued where it left off last weekend in Gainesville. The team scored a season-high 49.150 against the Gators before tallying a stable 48.800 Friday night in an event which has been the Achilles Heel for the Black and Gold. Kappler was sublime again with a career best and 2015 team best 9.875, but it was only good for second place honors as Auburn’s Megan Walker posted an extraordinary 9.900 to merit first place.

Key notable Kelli Martin made only her second appearance of the season on Friday and scored a quality 9.800 on the beam. Last weekend the true freshman from St. Louis surprised the crowd with a bold score of 9.850, proving to be somewhat of a catalyst on the beam rotation for the Tigers in the latter stages of the season.

The Tigers final routine came in the floor exercise where personal records were once again rewritten. Kappler performed a sensational routine scoring a second-best 9.850, which tied her career best for the third straight week. Freshman Kennedi Harris also notched a 9.800 for her fifth consecutive meet with that mark or higher.

Despite a number of personal bests and quality team routines, eighth-ranked Auburn didn’t let up in the second half of routines as they pulled away by just over a full point. Overall, with the SEC holding seven out of the top 25 ranked positions, including six out of the top 11, the Tigers have actually performed much better than what their record shows.

The fact that about half of the 24 routines performed each meet are executed by freshman also illustrates a growing poise and eye-opening potential for the future. Mizzou head coach Shannon Welker has done a magnificent job preparing his young team mentally to showcase its talent against the best competition in the nation. Having the likes of all-SEC gymnast Miller who has 11 all-around and event wins this year to go along with her memorable performance this evening, tying Tiger All-American Alisha Robinson on vault, makes Missouri a dangerous threat in the upcoming seasons.

The Tigers have a couple of meets remaining before the SEC Championships a month from now, starting with No. 14 Arkansas on Friday 7 p.m.