Rob Drass resigns as MU gymnastics coach

By Katie Pohlman

Tags: Gymnastics


Drass brought great improvement to the team throughout his 14 years at MU.

Missouri gymnastics coach Rob Drass resigned from his position Wednesday. Effective immediately, assistant coach Jennifer Green will act as interim coach.

“Each team is evaluated after each semester,” athletic department spokesman Chad Moller said. “And it was just decided on both sides that it would be better for (Drass) to step down.”

Green will act as interim head coach until the athletic department selects a new coach to take over the position for next season.

Drass, Green and the Missouri gymnastics team declined to be interviewed.

Drass has coached at MU for 14 years, with his first season being in 2000. In that time, he led the Tigers to 11 consecutive NCAA Regional appearances between 2002 and 2012. In 2010, he led the squad to its first regional title and NCAA Championships appearance in program history.

Drass also encouraged his gymnasts to perform well in the classroom and in the community. Several gymnasts received academic honors during his time at MU ranging from Scholastic All-American members to Academic Big-12 first team members.

This past season freshman Miranda Eubank was named to the 2013 All-Freshman Team while senior Tori Howard and juniors Taylor Medrea and Mackenzie McGill were named to the All-Southeastern Conference Team. Senior Sandra Ostad was also named to the 2013 SEC Gymnastics Community Service Team for her participation in the community of Columbia.

Moving to the SEC, home of the best gymnastics in the nation, this year proved a big challenge for Missouri gymnastics. The team went 0-7 in conference competitions and 3-11 overall. This season also marked the first time the Missouri gymnastics has not qualified for NCAA Regionals since the 2001 season.

In a press release sent out by the athletic department, Associate Athletic Director Colleen Lamond said it is time for the program to take a different direction and have a new leadership for the gymnasts.

There is no word as to what Drass will do next year.

The athletic department has not set a specific timeline for hiring a new head coach. The department will announce the job opening next week and it will begin to receive inquiries. The department will also reach out to different coaching organizations to find out if any coaches are in search of a job, Moller said.

Moller said after the department has received what it deems a sufficient number of applications, they will start interviewing and doing background checks of the potential coaches.

“We’re look for someone who fits the Mizzou brand, someone who is hardworking, who has a track of success and who will push the girls to succeed in the classroom and community as well as on the floor,” Moller said.

He said the athletic department hopes to have a new coach in time for preseason next year but will not rush the hiring process.

Moller said the impact of Drass’ term at MU will never be forgotten.

“Rob did a lot of great things for the program,” Moller said. “He took over the program when it was down and brought it up to the level it is at now.”

MIssouri gymnastics earns season-high team score

Missouri gymnastics earned its highest team score of the year Saturday in the Tigers’ last regular season meet, but lost to the Arizona Wildcats, 196.625 – 195.450.

Mizzou started the meet on the Uneven Bars, where they posted a team score of 48.625. Senior Sandra Ostad began the rotation with a score of 9.700. Sophomore Laura Kappler and junior Mackenzie McGill followed earning 9.675 and 9.700, respectively. Sophomore Rachel Updike and junior Taylor Medrea finished off the rotation, posting scores of 9.775 each. Arizona answered with a team score of 49.150.

Missouri went next to the Vault, where Junior Cathryn Aliceaacosta posted a 9.550 and Kappler followed, earning a career-high score of 9.750. Freshman Miranda Eubank performed a solid routine to put up a score of 9.850, Senior Tori Howard posted a 9.800, and Updike earned a 9.900 to earn the event title. Missouri posted a team score of 48.850, just shy of Arizona’s 49.100.

The Tigers moved on to the Floor Exercise for the meet’s third rotation. Medrea began the event with a solid routine, earning a 9.775. Aliceaacosta and Ostad followed, both scoring a 9.800. Eubank posted a career-high score of 9.775 and Howard finished the rotation with a score of 9.875, for a team score of 49.025. But Arizona edged past Missouri with a team total of 49.475.

Missouri’s final event was the Balance Beam. Kappler was the first Tiger to compete, posting a 9.700. Freshman Rachel Henderson followed with a career-high 9.775 and Updike posted a solid 9.825. Howard competed next to earn a 9.875, winning the beam title. McGill ended the rotation with a solid 9.775. Missouri edged out Arizona on this event 48.950-48.900 for its only team victory of the meet.

The Tigers will move next to the Southeastern Conference Championships in Little Rock, Arkansas, starting at 2pm on Saturday, March 23.

Missouri gymnastics falls short of No. 17 Illinois

By Katie Pohlman

Tags: Gymnastics

The Tigers move into last regular season meet still looking to qualify for NCAA

Missouri gymnastics put up a good fight Friday during Senior Night at the Hearnes Center, but fell to No. 19 Illinois 196.300-194.125 in their last home meet of the season.

The Tigers started the competition on the Vault, posting a team score of 48.625. Freshman Rachel Henderson began the rotation with a 9.500 and sophomore Laura Kappler followed, scoring a 9.675. Freshman Miranda Eubank and senior Tori Howard competed solid vaults, producing scores of 9.750 and 9.800, respectively. Sophomore Rachel Updike then posted a 9.900 to win the event title. However, Illinois won this rotation with a team score of 48.900.

Mizzou suffered a major blow when Updike was taken out of the meet after this event to ice her foot.

“(Her injury) flared up again on vault and we didn’t want to do anything to make it worse and lose her for the rest of the season,” coach Rob Drass said.

One gymnast down, Missouri moved on to the Uneven Bars. Senior Sandra Ostad led off the rotation, earning a 9.075 after a slip during her dismount. Kappler competed next, posting a score of 9.675 and junior Mackenzie McGill followed, scoring a career-high 9.850. Eubank fell during her routine to earn a 9.275 and junior Taylor Medrea finished off the rotation with a score of 9.775. MU earned a team score of 47,650, but Illinois again earned a higher team score of 49.025.

Drass said the Uneven Bars have been one of the team’s strongest events all year, but with Updike out of the line-up everyone was a little shaken.

“We were caught off guard on bars with Updike sitting out, but the girls kept fighting and did their best,” he said.

After a shaky first half, the Tigers had to make up ground on their last two events. They moved on to the Balance Beam, where they posted a 48.800 total. Kappler was the first Tiger to compete, earning a 9.625 with her routine. Medrea performed a solid routine to post a career-high score of 9.775. Junior Cathryn Aliceaacosta and Howard competed next, scoring 9.750 and 9.800, respectively. McGill competed last and was awarded a 9.850. Illinois responded with a team score of 49.175.

Missouri moved on to its last event of the night, the Floor Exercise, where the team posted 49.050, its highest Floor score of the season. Medrea began the high-scoring rotation with a routine earning her a 9.800. Aliceaacosta and Ostad followed with scores of 9.800 and 9.825, respectively. Eubank posted a 9.725 with her routine and Howard posted a career-high 9.900 to end the meet for the Tigers. But Illinois edged out the Tigers with a team score of 49.200.

Howard said finishing her floor routine and saluting the judge on Senior Night was very emotional for her.

“Being able to finish on such a strong note after working so hard on the event was great,” she said.

The two seniors and Medrea received long hugs after their floor performances from all their teammates. At the end of their routines, they let their emotions finally show, tearing up as they walked off the Hearnes Center floor for the last time in their collegiate careers.

While Medrea is only a junior, but she will not compete next year due to injuries.

“It was doctor’s orders,” she said. “It will be best for my future. I’ve accepted it, but it’s still hard to say good-bye.”

Drass said he knows it was hard for the girls to keep their emotions under control, but they have not finished the season yet. With one more meet to go, the team is still working toward a spot at the NCAA championships in April. Drass said he believes they have a chance, but they need to keep working hard.

“(NCAA) only takes 36 teams and we’re 37 right now. We’re right on that bubble,” he said.

The Tigers will travel to Tucson next week to take on No. 16 Arizona in their last regular season competition on March 16 at 5 p.m.

Missouri gymnastics to honor seniors Friday night

By Katie Pohlman

Tags: Gymnastics

The seniors agree saying goodbye will be hard, but Friday’s meet is not their last.

As she walks off after competing her floor exercise routine Friday night, senior gymnast Tori Howard will have mixed emotions.

She will be proud of her performance and the fact she has perfected her routine by competing on floor for the past four years. But she will also have a tinge of sadness, knowing it will be the last time she performs at the Hearnes Center.

Howard, fellow senior gymnast Sandra Ostad and student coach Brittany Bendoff will be honored at the close of Friday’s meet as part of Missouri gymnastics’ Senior Night. Compilation videos will show each gymnast’s journey as a member of the team.

Howard is preparing for an emotional night.

“There will be a lot of tears,” she says. “That’s probably why they do the video at the end of the meet and not the beginning.”

Four years ago, the three gymnasts practiced for the first time as Tigers. They were all terrified and nervous, especially Ostad, who had to deal with a language barrier to practice.

Ostad came all the way from Oslo, Norway. At her first practice, she did not talk much to anyone and simply followed along with what everyone else was doing. She said she had trouble learning the English names for skills. The unavoidable miscommunications between her and her coaches led to mistakes in her performance.

“We have different terms in Norway,” she said. “I had to get used to the English terms. That led to some confusion and problems on the first day of practice.”

Coach Rob Drass, who has coached the seniors during their entire MU careers, said it is really rewarding to watch girls grow from timid freshmen to senior leaders of the team.

“Sometimes its feels like (their first practice was) yesterday, and sometimes it feels like so long ago,” he said.

For the past four years, Missouri gymnastics has made an appearance at the NCAA Regionals every season and went to the NCAA Championships in 2010. But Howard and Ostad believe their greatest accomplishments have been in sharpening and perfecting their own gymnastic skills.

“Over the past four years, my gymnastics has become a lot more consistent and cleaner,” Howard said.

Bendoff has unfortunately missed the past two seasons due to serious injuries, but Drass said she has an undying love for the sport and continues to contribute to the team through her student coach position.

Drass said he and the coaching team hope that these seniors, and all the gymnasts on the Missouri team, take the lessons they’ve learned in practice and apply them to other parts of their lives.

“Good values, morals and work ethic are instilled in (the seniors), and they pass them on to the younger gymnasts every year,” Drass said.

Looking into the future, Howard plans on attending graduate school at MU to earn her masters in business administration. Ostad, who is graduating in December, is debating whether to return home to Norway or attend graduate school at MU as well.

Howard said she will try to stick around as long as possible.

“It’s hard to be done with gymnastics,” she said. “For some of us, we’ve been doing it since we were three and it’s all we know.”

As Ostad points out, Friday’s meet is not the team’s last. The gymnasts still have one more away meet and a chance at postseason competitions before they have to say their final farewells.

“Friday’s going to be sad, but there’s still more gymnastics to be done,” Ostad said.

Drass said he thinks Friday’s meet will bring a big crowd because Columbia has always been supportive of Missouri gymnastics.

“(Columbia) has watched these girls grow as well throughout the years,” Drass said. “I think they’ll want to send them off on a good note.”

Gymnastics place second at Arkansas meet

Missouri gymnastics placed second to Arkansas in the team’s quad meet March 1. The other two competitors, Lindenwood University from St. Charles, Mo., and Centenary College, placed third and fourth, respectively.

The Razorbacks led the meet right from the beginning, and would finish with a score of 196.650. Missouri followed with a 194.300, Lindenwood with a 191.125 and Centenary with 190.525.

Mizzou began the meet on bars posting a team score of 48.875, which would be its best of the night. Sophomore Laura Kappler started off the rotation with a career-high 9.775. Junior Mackenzie McGill and freshman Miranda Eubank followed, scoring 9.750 and 9.800, respectively. Sophomore Rachel Updike competed a solid routine to earn a 9.825 and junior Taylor Medrea finished off the rotation with a 9.725.

The Tigers traveled to the balance beam next. Kappler once again was the first gymnast to compete for Mizzou, earning a 9.775. Freshman Rachel Henderson posted a career-high 9.750 and Updike scored a solid 9.825. Senior Tori Howard and McGill ended the rotation with marks of 9.725 and 9.750, respectively. The team ended up with a 48.825 score on this event.

The third rotation found Missouri on the floor exercise, where they earned a team total of 47.750. Junior Taylor Medrea brought the Tigers their first score of 9.375. Junior Cathryn Aliceaacosta posted a 9.650 and Eubank followed with a career-high 9.750. Howard earned a 9.800 and Freshman Blair Elmore competed on the event for the first time, posting a 9.175.

Mizzou ended the meet on the vault, where. Kappler was the first gymnast to compete, bringing in a 9.650. Eubank and Howard followed with 9.700 and 9.800, respectively. Updike then earned the Tigers’ highest score on this event with a 9.875. Ostad finished off the rotation, scoring a season-high 9.800 and bringing the team’s total to 48.850.

The Tigers return to the Hearnes Center to compete against Illinois in their last home meet of the season at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The team will honor the seniors at this meet.