Minutes before the start of Sunday’s triangular meet at Kitty Magee Arena, members of the TWU gymnastics team stood around in a circle in the hallway, yelling at the top of their lungs.
These moments are vital in getting the team in the proper frame of mind for its performance.
“We have tons of cheers,” senior Bethany Larimer said. “Our team is amazing. We have so much team spirit and it kind of gets us pumped up before we come out here and perform. We scream ‘Bam!’ at the top of our lungs for as long as we can just to get us in the mood. Sometimes, when you don’t have that energy, your teammates can push you through. We kind of use bam as another word for nailing it. We’re getting our minds ready for that.”
Despite narrowly winning just two of four events, the Pioneers were still able to come away with the meet victory by amassing a score 192.675, edging out Lindenwood (192.650) and Centenary (189.150).
Larimer’s 9.825 on the vault was the top individual performance in the event, and after she stuck her landing, Larimer had one word ringing in her head — “Bam!”
“Finally,” Larimer said of her solid landing. “It was more so just a sigh of relief because I was excited. Vault’s my best event. I kind of don’t think about what I have to do. My body has done it for so long, it just knows what to do. Today, the landing was just there. I’ve had little tiny hops at the end, but today I finally stuck it. I’ve done it before in warm-ups but not in competition.”
Even with Larimer’s performance and seniors Brittainy Johnson and Amy Winczura tied for second on the team with a 9.625 each, the Pioneers combined for a total of 47.900, which placed them second behind Lindenwod with a 48.150 in the event.
“It wasn’t our best day on any event really,” TWU head coach Lisa Bowerman said. “We did OK in terms of fighting for things and not having to count falls, but I didn’t feel like our performances had the same energy or the same precise, confident air about them that we’ve had in the past couple weeks. We were a little tight today and held back a little.”
Senior Brittany Johnson got the Pioneers back on track with an individual top score of 9.825 in the uneven bars, helping her team to the victory in the event with a score of 48.550. Senior Courtney Cochefski and Larimer each added scores of 9.775.
“She’s always there,” Bowerman said of Johnson. “She’s a rock. She’s always there and always ready to do her job. She had a fall ahead of her on bars and a fall ahead of her on beam. She anchored the team. She’s the epitome of experience and competitive fire.”
Johnson also bolstered the Pioneers’ victory in balance beam with a 9.700, TWU’s top performer in the event. Behind her were sophomore Madison Kremer and Larimer with scores of 9.625 each as TWU won with a team score of 48.025.
“I just took everything one thing at a time, tried to relax and enjoy the moment,” Larimer said. “I feel like we did that for the most part, but I feel like there’s more we can do. We need to just get back in the gym and work on those little tenths [of points], landings and wobbles. We need to get those out of the way and do what we’re capable of doing.”
With the meet’s champion yet to be decided heading into the final event, the Pioneers were led by junior Stephanie Repp’s 9.775 in the floor exercise. Despite being neck and neck with Lindenwood, which beat TWU (48.200) with a 48.850 on the floor, the Pioneers still came away with their second straight victory at home.
“It’s great to have a victory because for our team in this meet in particular, we had two teams in here that we’re going to compete against in the conference championship and nationals,” Bowerman said. “So knowing that we’re going to see them again, perhaps that’s what brought on a little bit of tightness and nerves. It would have felt a lot better if we had performed to our fullest.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.