For select very special fans (i.e. booster club & rotary members), Sunday afternoon was another opportunity to watch the 2023-2024 gymnastics team showcase their skills, only this time in more of a traditional meet format. That is, with six gymnasts at each rotation — vault, bars, beam and floor exercise — with a few exhibition entries tacked on at the end. They even brought in two gymnastics judges (thanks to the Chiefs bye week for their Sunday availability) to give it more of a real meet atmosphere feel.
Mizzou Gymnastics head coach Shannon Welker did a great job explaining the plans for this year’s team, and I feel like I personally came away from the event with a clearer idea of what the team is working towards, and learned a bit more about how college gymnastics works.
As a very enthusiastic Mizzou Gymnastics fan and lover of statistics, I was anxious to see how the rotations looked, which, if you are familiar with my previews from last season, I attempted to predict the rotations as a quasi head-to-head match up type of thing, though that’s obviously not how it’s scored. As you’ll see below, if I saw them, I captured the judges’ scores for each participant.
Whereas the intrasquad meet several weeks ago was the squad’s first time out in front of fans, this time the Tigers came out aggressive, showing off more complexity in their skills. Fifth-year senior Sienna Schreiber echoed these sentiments.
“The last one was kind of like, this is our first one and let’s just see how it goes,” she said. “We tried to have that mentality of ‘We got it’ but there’s still that little nervousness. I think this week we really came out of the gates just ready to go and a lot more confident than last time.”
Notes from Shannon: They’re working hard on getting more of the rotation to have vaults with 10.0 start values. That will really help them compete with the cream of the crop. Last season they had maybe 2-3, but this season he expects there to be 4-6.
Simply put, this means they are doing the most difficult vaults, so they can be awarded the most points if done correctly. Conversely, if your vault only has a start value of 9.95, that’s the highest score you can get, and mistakes just move you further away from that score.
Rotation: Sienna Schreiber (5th year) | Grace Anne Davis (jr) | Jalene “JJ” Jachna (so) | Hannah Horton (fr) | Amari Celestine (jr) | Jocelyn Moore (jr)
Exhibition: Kyra Burns (sr) | Mackenzie Patricelli (so) | Rayna Light (fr)
Notes from Shannon: “I thought we had a lot of great landings on bars today. I thought we had a lot of sticks. Even if we had mistakes I think the one thing that we preach is to finish the routine.”
Notes from Sienna (Schrieber): “I think on bars we did a good job building. Just like feeding the energy.”
Rotation: Jocelyn Moore (jr)— 9.90 | Maya Marshall (sr)— 9.80 | Kyra Burns- (sr) | Hannah Horton (fr)— 9.75 | Sienna Schreiber (5th yr)— 9.95 | Mara Titarsolej (sr)— 9.95
Exhibition: Alonna Kratzer (jr)
Notes from Shannon: “Beam wasn’t perfect, but I thought they did a great job of finishing and sticks, and in between bars and beam, we had a lot of sticks. Our goal is always like 50% or better on those two events.” Also, Amari has added what looks like another event to her repertoire (Shannon teased as much). Big Amari fans over here, so we simply LOVE to see her in all the rotations.
Rotation: Maya Marshall (sr)— 9.70 | Amari Celestine (jr)— 9.85 | Grace Anne Davis (jr) | Sienna Schreiber (gr) | Mara Titarsolej (sr)— 9.37 | Sydney Schaffer (sr)— 9.75
Exhibition: Hannah Horton (fr)— 9.77 | Courtney Woods (so)— 8.75
Amari beam (she didn’t do beam last year) pic.twitter.com/v3gct7Gn30— Karen S (@karensteger) November 12, 2023
Notes from Shannon: At this meet the rotation still did a few passes into the softer big blue mat, not running the full length of the floor, but they did do the full last pass. He talked about the need to build the routines from back to the front because the last pass is the toughest one, just from an endurance standpoint. “So we’ve made sure that we kind of get after it a little bit early,” he said.
Rotation: Rayna Light (fr) | Sienna Schreiber (gr)— 9.90 | Hannah Horton (fr)— 9.77 | Amari Celestine (jr)— 9.90 | Alonna Kratzer (jr) — 9.70 | Jocelyn Moore (jr)— 9.85
Exhibition: Courtney Woods (so) | JJ Jachna (so)
After the meet portion was over, Coach Shannon and the team participated in a Q&A, where we got a lot more information. Also, notable athletes I haven’t seen participate yet were sophomore Addison Lawrence (working back from the hip surgery) and Hollyn Patrick (5th yr). And while I saw her perform in the first intrasquad, Kennedy Griffin (fr) sat this one out. Coach Welker said some were resting or just had some ailments, and he expects them all back.
On his impressions of the 4th-5th years:
“I think it’s really cool when our upperclassmen are continuing to get better. It’s awesome when they’re in their fourth or fifth year and they’re doing new stuff... Just off the top of my head, Sydney (Schaffer) added a new beam dismount, which is awesome. Mara (Titarsolej) even though she wasn’t here last year, she’s added that pack full into her bars. Alonna (Kratzer) added a whip through to a double tuck [on the floor].”
Regarding the freshmen:
“A lot of our freshmen compete right away... They come in talented, but I think our coaching staff, our team, does a good job helping them develop as well and continue to get better each and every day.”
On the energy & culture:
“We feel like that’s one way that we can beat our opponents right. Listen, they can outspend us or do whatever but they can’t out-heart us, outwork us or out-team us and that’s something we really feel like we can build our team. We feel like that culture is worth in terms of football, a touchdown, right?” He continued. “We feel like it’s worth, you know, 5/10ths of a point. And so we feel like you know, on paper might be like, Wow, this team should win, and then this [gestures to the group] team wins. And I think that’s a difference-maker for us.”
On the new choreography:
“If you’ve been following our team this fall, the presentation is definitely better this year. Jackie (Terpak, new assistant coach) does a lot of great work over there on those things. She does a great job of figuring out personalities and just what works for people and then try to get them outside of their comfort zones a little bit.”
On the progression of the season:
“One thing we’ve done really well at is continuing to get better as the year goes on and just developing... For this time of year, we’re in a good spot.”
“We’re excited for this team. I think, again, we have a great shot of having a wining record in the SEC. Getting our team in a position to get back to the NCAA Champsionships is always something we’re focused on. At the end of the day, if we maximize potential and maximize what we can do, I think that’s all we can ask of the team.”
On the uniqueness of the beam routines, when someone commented on the combinations and dismounts:
“Lacey (Rubin, new assistant coach) does a gerat job with that. We try to figure out what they’re good at and not being afraid of just being unique... We do some different things to just try and give us a little bit of a different look and a little bit of a wow factor.”
On the schedule and giving up a home meet for Zou to the Lou:
“We only have four home meets this year because we moved our fifth one to St. Louis for the Zou to the Lou thing. We’ve got a podium meet in St. Louis, which is super cool, and are like one of very few schools — I think there’s only two other schools in the country that are doing podium meets off campus, and we’re one of them.”