Crater Writes Winning Script

FAYETTEVILLE -- Missouri, ranked 32nd, came into Barnhill Arena as if it owned the place and upset No. 15 Arkansas 196.050 to 195.575 before 2,708 fans on Sunday afternoon.

Tigers sophomore Whitney Crater, a 5-foot-2 dynamo from Little Rock Parkview, had a career-best 9.90 on vault and a 9.875 in floor exercise to delight a large group of relatives in attendance.

"I had so many fans here," Crater said. "I must have had 30 family members. It felt really good, because we needed a good score to get to regionals."

Alisha Robinson, a 5-3 senior, led Missouri with 39.3 all-around points, including a team-high 9.95 on beam and a team-best 9.90 as the anchor performer in floor exercise.

"Missouri is good in the power events, and that's still our weakness," said Arkansas co-coach Rene Cook. "Bars and beam are our strengths, but a lot more errors can occur in those events. In vault, you either hit the routine or you don't."

Crater said she "looked at Arkansas a little bit" in recruiting, but chose Missouri because of its renowned journalism department.

"I started out in broadcast, but now I've changed to public relations and communications," she said.

Crater helped Missouri outscore Arkansas 49.275 to 48.775 in vault, and the Tigers still led 98.075 to 97.775 despite Arkansas' slight edge in bars.

Fully focused from the outset and oblivious to Arkansas' routines, the Tigers exchanged chants with their fans at mid-meet, including this one: "Who rocks the house? Mizzou rocks the house!"

Then Mizzou outscored Arkansas 48.900 to 48.750 in beam, and 49.075 to 49.050 in floor exercise, withstanding the Gym'Backs' best score of the season in floor.

"Overall we had a fairly good performance," Cook said. "We changed the lineup somewhat, and Cassie Drew and Audra Loveless stepped up in floor. But we're still not taking control of things when we can. That's our immaturity."

Arkansas is a third-year program, while Missouri is in its 26th season of gymnastics.

"We kind of waver back and forth," Cook said. "Our vault and beam were shaky today. But this was still our second-highest score, and it will help our regional qualifying score."

Cook said UA freshman Emily Peacock had been ill and therefore competed only in bars (9.825), while freshman Sam Cortez was tired and took part only in vault (9.750).

Arkansas freshman Mallory Machnik, on the other hand, had a team-high 9.90 in floor exercise and a team-best 9.825 in vault.

Drew scored 9.725 in floor, despite limited practice time because of an ankle injury.

Katie Hardman and Rachel Barnett competed well in three events each for Arkansas.

"Rachel hit all three, and Katie did a great job," Cook said. "We totally count on Katie because she's so steady, calm and confident. At Denver she crashed in warmups but then hit every routine. We've come to rely on her."

Arkansas will conclude its home season at 7 p.m. Saturday in a quadrangular meet featuring three first-time visitors to Barnhill Arena: two-time defending national champion UCLA, Nebraska and Oregon State.

"There will be so much energy on the floor, with four events going on at once," Cook said. "Nebraska has the all-around NCAA champion, UCLA has three Olympians and Oregon State just nudged us in a meet this year. It will be exciting to see the different styles."

UA co-coach Mark Cook said, "We were off on our landings a little today. We've got to keep getting better."


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