There was a party going on inside the Hearnes Center on senior night Friday. There was cheering, screaming, jumping, dancing from the fans, coaches and athletes. Much of what one would expect from a "Senior Night Fiesta" for the Missouri Tigers gymnastics team.
The No. 19-ranked Tigers were hosting No. 7-ranked Michigan, No. 9-ranked Minnesota, and Centenary College. Friday wasn’t the first time Missouri has faced a tough opponent. Nearly every opponent the Tigers have faced this season has been ranked. They stepped up on senior night, however, and put the rest of women’s gymnastics on watch.
The Tigers finished tied for second with Michigan with a season high of 196.800. Missouri nearly toppled two top-10 ranked teams in one night. Before Friday, the Tigers beat just one top-10 ranked team this season, when they defeated then-ranked No. 10 Kentucky at home March 1. Missouri fell to Minnesota by just just the narrowest of margins: 196.900 to 196.800.
Friday night was the top performance of the season for the Tigers.
“We weren’t good last week, but we didn’t prepare very well last week either," said MU coach Shannon Welker. "I think the difference in our preparation this week was so much better, and (had) so much more intensity, and we only trained really two days this week.”
Missouri set a season high with its 196.800 overall score. That beats the previous high of 196.550 set Feb. 1 against Alabama. The Tigers set a season high on the beam and floor routines as well, posting highs of 49.425 and 49.425 respectively.
“My first emotion is disbelief. I cannot believe four years has gone by so fast and so much has happened and we’ve all grown," said senior Michaelee Turner. "Our class is huge, we have seven girls and I could not imagine my time here without each and every single one of them. I’ve just been so thankful.”
The seven seniors are Allison Bower, Madeleine Huber, Brooke Kelly, Xarria Lewis, Becca Schugel, Turner and Brittney Ward.
“Well, since I am in their class, and I’ll be here a year without them, I’m so sad to see them go, and I wish I was leaving with them, but I’m happy to be here another year," redshirt junior Morgan Porter said. "I cherish every moment and every year with them and I know they’re gonna do great things.”
Friday was the last home meet for the Missouri seniors, but SEC and NCAA Tournament play could keep them competing all the way through April. These women would love to keep competing together as long as possible and keep pushing each other win or lose.
The Tigers gained a ton of momentum Friday, and they intend on carrying that momentum deep into postseason play.
Supervising editor is Seth Bodine.