I knew this week had already been set in stone as a great one for Missouri athletics when I hopped on the 401 bus that ferries me to Hearnes/Mizzou Arena every few days, and found the usually-empty shuttle packed to the brim with students.
Not even on Mizzou men’s basketball game days is that bus so full– I counted upwards of thirty students riding alongside me They were all headed to the Hearnes Center to see the most entertaining thing in Missouri (since the Chiefs were on the road), ninth-ranked Missouri gymnastics taking on third-ranked LSU.
All who went– a record crowd of 7,336– were rewarded with an incredible win that came down to the very last competitor. Who could write a better ending?
This week’s piece shows off the incredible student-athletes which made Friday night’s meet so magical.
Women’s Hoops also lost in a heartbreaker to Arkansas. All of it is here in this week’s Tobias Ten!
- Perfectly Balanced
Junior Amari Celestine was triumphant here after scoring a 9.825 on the beam— she and freshman Rayna Light had the two highest scores. All of the athletes seemed to have enough energy to take the Hearnes’ ancient roof off, but Celestine took it to another level.
2. Hold up- pose!
This was a close, close match and came down to the last event and the last competitor. Early in the last event (floor exercise), freshman (!!) Hannah Horton took the floor, earned a 9.825, and did a “Tiger Claw” pose right in front of my camera. Horton’s best performance came earlier that night on the vault, earning a 9.950, the best of the night at that event.
3. Up in the sky...
Camera angles are important— this story is one you cannot tell through close-ups. I’ve been to a bunch of volleyball games and other Hearnes events and never seen it as packed as it was Friday. Pretty much every seat was filled except for the oddly designed theater-like upper deck. Here, freshman Kennedy Griffin executes a flawless tumbling pass on her way to a 9.975 score (she got a 10 from one judge).
4. Poetry in Motion
Who doesn’t like some fun slow-shutter-speed action?! Slowing down my camera to catch this Missouri gymnast (if it was a normal photo I could tell you who it is) revealed some very fun motion (okay, I did a second of research and found that it was Kennedy Griffin.) My favorite part— the only thing not blurred seems to be the sparkling sequins.
5. Move the Crowd
Rayna Light’s season-high 9.90 on the floor had the whole crowd moving, except for a few bored students here and there in the crowd. (Maybe they were waiting for LSU star Olivia Dunne to perform; she never did.) I’ve been to some loud sporting events, but the place exploded Friday whenever any Mizzou gymnast finished a pass. Not since last year’s men’s basketball season have I heard any such noise. Bravo, Mizzou fans.
6. The Thunderdome
Over at Mizzou Arena, the Athletics Department has devised an incredible light and smoke show that is designed to hype up the crowd before men’s and women’s basketball games. But no fancy lights could match the energy of the Hearnes as athletes like Amari Celestine ran into a record crowd.
7. Don’t Look Down
Athletes competing in gymnastics ascend to such incredible heights that some wonder how they make it back down every time. On the beam, Amari Celestine was in total control, coming away with a 9.825; Mizzou’s highest score at that event.
8. Double Take
Don’t you love it when things line up just right? I got head coach Shannon Welker right in-between two well-placed signs here. Welker, in his 11th season, finished his last season with the highest regional score in program history and seems well on his way to doing even better this year.
9. Flashing Lights
Yes, I did say earlier that the light show was a little much. But how can I complain when it creates awesome lighting like this? Robin Pingeton looks like she’s in a basketball movie scene, seen here talking to Hannah Linthacum and other players before the Arkansas game.
Over at Mizzou Arena, Arkansas guard Samara Spencer and Mizzou guard Ashton Judd fought for the rock. The game was a similarly hard-fought contest; it was close for much of the game until Arky pulled away in the second half. This Wednesday, the Arkansas men visit Columbia, in what hopefully will be a much better game.