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Reviewin' & Previewin' - X-Country and Gymnastics

Alright everyone, we are back for another week of the Musings and some additional All-Sports wrap-ups.  This week, I will tackle both men's and women's Cross Country, as well as moving on to the winter and women's Gymnastics.  And who knows...maybe some additional random thoughts and perhaps a quick take on the departure of Keon Lawrence from the Basketball squad.  Let's dive right in, since I have a feeling my thoughts on hoops and three sports could start to run up on The Boy-length pieces.

Men's Basketball:

Well, quite the little bomb was dropped to close out the week for Mizzou, as junior guard Keon Lawrence announced he would be seeking a transfer, which was granted through his release by Coach Mike Anderson.  As The Boy referenced, this was something which was discussed quite often when the season closed, even prompting Lawrence to announce that he would be returning.  However, his inability it would seem happy appears to have steered him in another direction.

What does this do for the Tigers? opens a pretty big hole in the backcourt, where Lawrence was going to be counted on for leadership.  The Tigers are not lacking guards, with Tiller and Matt Lawrence returning along with the addition of transfer of Zaire Taylor and the arrival of Miguel Paul, Marcus Denmon and Kim English.  Hell, Mike Anderson Jr. and Nick Berardini are still there as well.  But, Keon's leaving certainly has to be seen NOW as a blow for Mike Anderson where he really could not stand to have much go wrong in the coming season.

The Tigers, who were still likely to count on a good deal of production from the new players, will need to get even more production and have to look to someone else for the backcourt leadership to help guide the team.  Still way too early to predict where the Tigers will finish, but any sort of previous prediction now likely needs to be tempered a bit with this loss.  Good luck Mike Anderson and the team....sounds like you guys will need even more now.

Men's Cross Country:

For the harriers of Ol' Mizzou on the men's side, Coach Jared Wilmes had to consider the 2007 a success.  Sophomore Dan Hedgecock was the 4th straight runner to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, and the Tigers did take down kU at the Big XII Championships, earning an important point in the Border War.  The team featured a number of very young and talented runners and returns all but one of them for the 2008 campaign.  And of course, as damn near trademarked by the Wilmes family, the team was an amazing representation of what it means to be a STUDENT athlete, scoring highly in the classroom.

The season got off to a lovely start with the team's showing at the Mizzou Cross Country Challenge, which was won by lone senior Billy Bell.  Mizzou would win their own challenge, but also the Bradley Classic where they placed 5 in the top 10, including a win for Dan Hedgecock.  Mizzou put together a nice 6th place showing at the Big XII Championships with Hedgecock taking 18th overall and first for Mizzou.  They would move on to the NCAA Midwest Regionals where Hedgecock would improve to 13th overall and lead the team to an 8th place finish.  The season ended there for everyone but Hedgecock, as the sophomore ran one final time, coming in 125th at the NCAA meet.

The team will return everyone from last season except for Billy Bell.  Hedgecock will obviously lead the way as a junior, but they will also feature a number of solid seniors in Garrett Jeffries and Tim Cornell.  However, the team also got good efforts and production from a number of freshmen last season in Dan Quiqley, Larry Paul and Phillip King who should all be back and looking to improve in their 2nd season.

All in all, this continues to be a program where wonderful student-athletes represent the University well in both on field and off field activities.  Look for the men to improve on their solid showing in 2007 and look to break into the top half of the Big XII again in 2008.

Women's Cross-Country:

Across the hallway, the women had probably a bit of a disappointing run in 2007.  Anchored with a lot of seniors, the ladies did have some nice finishes during the season, including wins at Mizzou Cross Country Challenge, Vanderbilt Commodore Classic and Bradley Classic before all was said and done.  However, once the schedule landed on the post season, the team came up a bit short, placing 10th in the Big XII, though in front of kansas.  The season would finish with the ladies equaling the men with an 8th place finish at the NCAA Midwest meet and be done from there.  Of course, and perhaps even more so than the men, the ladies are winners in the classroom, with some sort of ridiculous run where the entire team reaches Academic All-whatever status.

As mentioned above, Mizzou will lose a LOT of seniors from last year's squad.  Most notably will be Kate Greer, who took the top spot for the squad at the NCAA Midwest meet, and was always within the top 3 all season for the Tigers.  Other seniors who had good contributions all season were Kasey Kimball, Carolyn Rauen and Emily Ramsey.

However, all is not lost for the team, as they will have a trio of seniors this season in Angela Potrykus, Ellen Rise and nine time All-Big XII and two time Big XII Champion Trisa Nickoley, who uses the cross country season as a warm up for the track season.  Angela Potrykus returns as the champion of the Missouri Cross Country Challenge and was top Tiger finisher at the Roy Griak Invitational.  Also returning will be a trio of frosh who made a splash last season in Layne Moore (who does more on the track for the Tigers), Jessica Armstrong and Kinsey Farren, who just got stronger and stronger as the 2007 progressed and was always around the top for the ladies.

I would say the 2008 season will hinge on the improvement within the groups of seniors and sophomores, as well as perhaps the influx of some additional freshman talent.  I am certain the ladies are looking to better their 10th place finish in conference and I feel confident they should be able to do that with Farren and Portykus leading the way.

Women's Gymnastics:

Alright, let's power into the Winter Sports season and we will start with the Mizzou Gymnastics squad.  The season started with a good deal of promise as Mizzou was going to be putting out a talented and still pretty young squad bolstered by the arrival of impressive transfer Sarah Shire.  As the season progressed, the ladies did not see the improvement in performance and ranking they might have liked, though they stayed within the national top 20 the entire season.  In the end, one young lady would make history and send Mizzou out on a very high note as they prepare for the 2009 (can you believe that?  2009?) season.

Mizzou will lose some experience with graduation, especially all-arounder Ashley Khederian.  Ashley was solid throughout the entire season for the Tigers, giving good efforts and balancing the occasionally off Sarah Shire.  Other seniors moving on will be Julie Abaray, Nikki Bowman and Lisa Puccio.

As referenced above, the Tigers really did go into the season with a lot of young talent, and will in fact only return two seniors to the squad.  Mystical Seven member Alicia Hatcher is one and the other just happens to be Big XII All-Around Champion, Adrianne Perry.  Perry was at her game all season long, and topped out with a wonderful performance at the Big XII meet, topping a number of even higher ranked tumblers to become the fourth Tiger in history to win such an award.  Perry also came away as the Big XII champ on the floor exercise.  While her performance at the NCAA Championships may not have been to her liking, she will get another crack at it and will certainly enter the season as a gymnast to watch on the national level.

Perry is not the only talent coming back to the Hearnes.  Sarah Shire, who will be a junior now, was a wonderful addition to the squad, impressing from the very first meet.  Shire put up high scores a number of times all season and will look to combo with Perry to give the Tigers a great 1-2 punch in the all-around.  Junior-to-be Danielle Guilder and sophomore-to-be Alex Gold were key components in multiple events all season, and specialists Brooke Boehmer and Liz Straatman (both juniors) will look to improve their contribution as well.  Mizzou will welcome three new members to the squad this year, including Mary Burke, a specialist in floor and beam where the Tigers will need her.  Burke was named WGN Prep athlete of the month this past season.  Tara Foster will likely contribute on the vault and Allie Heizelmen could see action on the floor and the bars, giving Mizzou a nice, well-rounded incoming group.

Mizzou has been a national program now for a good few seasons, but still has not broken through in the Big XII.  In fact their best finish is still a 3rd place showing.  Don't mistake...the Big XII is a tough conference with perennial powers in OU and Nebraska always in the mix.  The Tigers definitely (as a team) topped out pretty early this past year, and where you would expect scores to climb as the season progressed, their scores plateaued and then even fell back a bit.  For Mizzou to have a better shot of reaching that next level, the ladies need to take those 194's early on and turn them in 196's come the middle and end.  At that rate, the ladies would have a good chance of cracking the top 10 and hopefully moving up in the Big XII pecking order.

Random Thoughts:

  • Got to watch the David Diaz/Manny Pacquiao fight at a bar Saturday night.  What a dismantling it was.  It was so bad that when Diaz finally hit the canvas in the 9th, face pretty much destroyed, the ref did not even bother to count...he just ended it.
  • I guess the game in L.A. does not count as a true no-hitter per MLB rules...a legal no-hitter has to be 9 innings and not just the end of the game.  Strange all the way around.
  • Lost in the deserved hoopla around Ben Askren and Christian Cantwell is that Mizzou may get another former athlete in the Olympics, as Lindsay Hunter continues to work with the USA Volleyball team, looking to make the #4 ranked squad in the world as the backup setter.  I also believe Hans Uldal from Norway will get to compete in the decathlon for his home country of Norway.
  • The one time I get to see the Mets in person this season, and I am forced to see them bring up Tony Armas Jr. (did not even know we had him on Triple A) take on the Cardinals on Tuesday....woo hoo!
  • I will miss the Euro Cup, certainly in part because of the wonderful finishes it provided, but also because I wont get to hear Andy Gray and Tommy Smythe again for awhile.  The way European color commentators use the language is just fun to listen to.
  • Anyone have any ideas what the wife and I could do for 4th of July?  Feel free to leave your ideas...  :-)