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So many highs, minimal lows mark another superior Missouri Gymnastics season

The Tigers fought so hard, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to beat out gymnastics blue-bloods Utah and UCLA in the Regional Finals. The disappointment doesn’t diminish what they accomplished, however.

@MizzouGymnastics | twitter

Disclaimer: I know, I know, I took a while to get this out. Apologies.

After a terrific regular season which saw the Missouri Tigers set program-highs in team score in late February at Arkansas, balance beam twice — first against Illinois to kick off the season, and again against Arkansas— uneven bars (also at Arkansas), tie a program-high in vault at Arkansas & again in the Regional Finals, and tie for their second highest score in floor (vs Auburn), the 2023 gymnastics season has reached its conclusion, aside from Alisa Sheremeta (more on her in a bit).

This season fans were filled with awe at the emergence of freshman Addison Lawrence on beam — her 9.975 tied for tops on the team— the effervescence of Amari Celestine’s floor routines, and the sheer perfection of Jocelyn Moore’s vaults (still thinking about that perfect 10). We marveled at Helen Hu’s bars and beam work, Sydney Schaffer’s progression at the end of the season, Alisa Sheremeta’s unbelievable consistency on every apparatus, and the return of Kyra Burns to anchor both vault and bars. We collectively rejoiced watching this team, as these Tigers always looked to be having the MOST fun.

The 2023 season also included a Hearnes attendance record February 19 vs. Auburn (everyone wanted to feast their eyes on Suni) and a 4-3 record in the SEC (4th place by record, 5th by score) with wins over no. 5 Auburn and no. 8 Alabama. And after placing 6th in the SEC Championships with their program-high conference score, the Tigers moved on to the NCAA Los Angeles Regional as a 13-seed where they placed 2nd in Session 2 against UCLA, Boise State and Stanford to move on to the Regional Finals. [links to recaps]

As for the Regional Finals, facing off against Washington and blue-bloods UCLA and Utah, I strongly feel the meet went as well as it possibly could have. There was absolutely NOTHING to be sad about. Because I haven’t recapped it yet, let’s get that out of the way. If you followed my Twitter during this, I got I love this team and this sport so much, y’all.

First Rotation (Beam): Just off their Round 2 score of 49.475, Mizzou put together a strong 49.400 in their leadoff rotation, led by Helen Hu and Sienna Schreiber’s 9.925 scores after Addy Lawrence led off with a 9.875. This scores put them in 2nd place behind UCLA, and was good enough to drop Sydney Schaffer’s 9.80. It was a GREAT start for the Tigers, especially considering the raucous PAC-12 heavy atmosphere. At one point, a Mizzou gymnast approached the coaching staff and very clearly said, “It’s so loud in here.”

[pardon my amateur filming skills from my couch]

Second Rotation (Floor): Jocelyn Moore led the Tigers’ FX efforts with an incredible 9.95, and had they counted Regional Final scores when determining NCAA individual bids, Joci would have made it. Amari Celestine nailed a super solid 9.90, and Alonna Kratzer seemed thrilled with her 9.825. Missouri’s 49.525 was just off its season-best of 49.600 and loads better than their 49.375 in Round 2 and moved them into first place, albeit temporarily, going into the third rotation.

[again, a professional videographer I am not]

Third Rotation (Vault): Tying a program-high 49.45, Mizzou couldn’t have had a better rotation. While all of the judges just couldn’t bear to award Moore a 10, she did come away with a phenomenal 9.975. Amari had a stellar 9.90, while Sienna (9.90) and Grace-Anne Davis (9.85) both tied their season-highs. In fact, no Tiger scored below a 9.825, which is phenomenal for a team which struggled at times on this apparatus. After three rotations, the Tigers held on to second place.

Final Rotation (Bars): A little hop here and a little non-completely vertical handstand there, and that was unfortunately the end for this storied group of cats. Schreiber led the Tigers with a 9.875, but three 9.85s by Alisa Sheremeta, Helen Hu, and Jocelyn Moore and a 9.80 by Kyra Burns were on the low-end for a team trying to snatch victory away from a blue-blood. I repeat— it’s not even that they did a bad job— they most certainly did not; the scores seemed low on bars across the competition, and this did Mizzou no favors. In the end, the Tigers would have needed a 197.92 to best UCLA, and while they scored their best Regional score (and season 2nd best total score) of 197.600, it wasn’t enough.

On April 3, individual participants were announced for the NCAA Gymnastics Championships based on Regional Round 2 scores, and 5th year senior Alisa Sheremeta, whose season-tying 9.95 beam score qualified her to the event semifinals. You can watch her on April 13, starting at 3:06pm on ESPN2.

Per the RoadtoNationals updates, Missouri finishes the season ranked no. 14 overall with a 394.715 season NQS and 197.115 team NQS to go with their program-high 197.600 Regional score. They averaged 196.961 points, with a high of 197.85 at Arkansas. They finished the regular season ranked no. 11 with a program-high score on beam (49.55), no. 14 on floor (49.60), no. 18 with a program-high score on bars (49.45), and no. 21 with a program-high tying score on vault (49.45, achieved twice).

For comparison’s sake, the 2022 season ended ranked no. 5 nationally (one spot out of the national championship) with a 394.620 season NQS and 197.195 team NQS to go with a 197.425 Regional score. They averaged 197.015 points, with a high of 197.675 in a tri-meet against Illinois, Iowa State and Lindenwood. They finished the regular season ranked no. 10 on floor (49.65), 13 on beam (49.475), 17 on vault (49.45) and 22 on bars (49.375).

So, where does that leave us? How about a little roster math? I believe this to be correct.

Per my conversation with Gymnastics Sports Information Director Emma Donnelly the morning of April 3, only Alisa and Hannah are out of eligibility and the team will conduct exit interviews in the coming weeks. Helen technically is considered a RS-Jr and has two remaining seasons left (including aCovid year) if she chooses to take it.

UPDATE 4/3 PM: Those meetings apparently concluded quickly. On Monday, Helen, who was crowned the Region 3 Athlete of the Year the day after, shared the news that she has chosen to retire:

In retrospect, Helen going through senior day ceremonies and also monitoring her social posts should have made this less of a surprise. I’m sad that we’ll never see another jaw-dropping Helen Hu beam routine though. Oh man, did she deserve a 10. Jerks.

UPDATE 4/6: There may be no more Helen, but there WILL be a Hollyn and a Sienna as both have chosen to extend their time in black & gold. Sienna Schreiber, 2022 All-American and 2023 All-SEC in Beam, will be particularly huge.

Next season, Missouri will welcome back seasoned vet Amaya Marshall, who was out this season with a lower leg injury — I’m employing hockey terms here as I don’t know exactly what she had surgery on — and see the return of WCGA First Team All-American and All-SEC vaulter Jocelyn Moore and All-SEC vaulter Amari Celestine, as well as a slew of other kickass ladies. This squad is talent-rich.

We’ll also see the Tigers bring in a Top-10 recruiting class, per College Gym News. Per, the addition of Finnish national team member Kaia Taskanen could be quite a boon for the Tigers.

“Kaia brings a wealth of experience at the international level and has the ability to contend as one of the top all-arounders in the NCAA,” Welker said. “She has put to together one of the most impressive resumes in the 2023 signing class.”

Not exactly “gymnastics school” status, but I’ll take it.

So where do we go from here, friends? Onward and upwards. As I said during my ABC17 Sunday Sports Sit-Down interview with Chanel Porter, the future is SO bright. Led by recently-crowned Region 3 Coach of the Year Shannon Welker and Assistants of the Year Whitney Snowden and Casey Jo MacPherson, this Tiger team is on the way up. I was just happy to be along for the most fun ride. MIZ.

Welker arrived in 2014, and since then, the results have been MUCH more consistent
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