Missouri gymnastics’ Gabrielle Gottula shines on senior night alongside promising young talent

An injured Jena Swanson forced the No. 23 Tigers to improvise on senior night.

No. 23 Missouri gymnastics honored its seniors Friday night, but it’s no secret that its young core has been crucial all season long.

The Tigers’ senior night lineup included two freshmen, three sophomores and the surprise scratch of freshman Jena Swanson, who tweaked her knee and couldn’t compete against the Bulldogs. Last time out, Swanson finished with career-highs on both vault and bars.

Missouri coach Shannon Welker replaced Swanson in the floor lineup with fellow freshman Sydney Schaffer for her first collegiate attempt at the routine.

“Well, it was my only option,” Welker said. “Our roster is a little thin right now.”

Senior night provided exhibition opportunities for some of the youngsters on Welker’s roster. Freshman Kalise Newson and sophomore Hollyn Patrick found their footing on bars and beam.

Swanson’s absence forced Schaffer straight from an exhibition routine to the lineup. The freshman won her state competitions in both beam and floor in high school, and on Friday she scored a solid 9.7 on the floor exercise after sharing the bars title with a career-high 9.875.

Schaffer joins a long list of talented underclassmen on the Tigers roster, headlined by sophomore Sienna Schreiber, a member of the 2020 SEC All-Freshman team and the all-around winner on Friday night. Schreiber carried the momentum from a career-high night last week against Arkansas and added to her impressive collection of performances.

Senior Gabrielle Gottula put together a career night of her own against the Razorbacks, scoring 9.9 on the beam and vault routines; she’s been a consistent name in three events for the Tigers all season.

“She’s been getting stronger as the year’s gone on,” Welker said. “It's nice to see her hitting her stride.”

Missouri also honored Lauren Clevenger and Chelsey Christensen before the meet. After contributing three scores above 9.85, Gottula pointed to her fellow seniors.

“They have had a huge impact on this team the whole four years I’ve been here, not only with the team but being what I call my best friends,” Gottula said. “They have had my back with everything I’ve done. I can’t thank them enough.”

Gottula also acknowledged the performances from the underclassmen and the Tigers’ promising future.

“They should be so excited because it only gets better,” Gottula said. “Look at where I was as a freshman, and where I am now.”

As a freshman, Gottula only saw a handful of chances in the lineup, while Amaya Marshall has already won an all-around title in her first campaign.

With their second meet win of the season coming against a top-15 opponent, expect the Tigers to shoot up in the rankings –– they visit LSU in their last regular season meet before moving on to the SEC championship in late March.

“We gotta take care of what we can do first, and the rankings will take care of themselves,” Welker said.

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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