DENTON -- The Southeast Missouri State gymnastics team didn't walk out of Texas Woman's University's Kitty Magee Arena with the Midwest Independent Conference Championships title, but the Redhawks didn't walk away empty handed either.
Southeast finished fourth with 193.500 well behind three-time champion University of Illinois-Chicago with 194.200, but Redhawk junior Tara Boldt was named MIC Co-Athlete of the Year with UIC senior Jennifer O'Neil. SEMO freshman Alison Ezell also shared Co-Newcomer of the Year with UIC freshman Ashle Howe.
"We're walking away with the newcomer of the year, the athlete of the year and those awards mean a lot," SEMO coach Tom Farden said. "That the other coaches and the other SIDs regard Alison as one of the best newcomers and Tara Boldt as one of the top athletes in the MIC, it just makes me so happy. These are great awards."
Southeast senior Katie Bloom also joined Boldt on the all-conference team by tying her for third in the all-around with 38.925. Boldt tied for third on the beam with 9.875, and she tied Bloom for sixth on the vault with 9.700. UIC came up big on the last rotation of the night -- the vault -- and scored a meet-high 48.800 to narrowly edge host TWU in the overall competition. The Pioneers totaled 194.125, and Centenary was right on their heels with 194.100. Illinois State rounded out the pack with 192.650.
"The competition was fierce," Farden said.
"This was definitely the toughest competition we've seen in the conference championship, and it came down the last routines on the last rotation," UIC coach Peter Jansson added. "It came down to vault, and we had to perform, and they stepped up and nailed their landings." The Redhawks actually led the competition heading into the fourth rotation of the night - the uneven bars. But, with injuries to sophomores Lexie Hein and Brystol Powelski, SEMO has been limited to what it can score and put up the second-lowest score of the night on the apparatus -- 47.765.
"Bars is just an event where we lost some key players," Farden said. "Tonight's score is actually going to help us." With five teams competing and only four events, SEMO was put in the unwanted situation of having its bye on the final rotation of the night, leaving Farden and his athletes to sweat out the results. But, with a young team that was just trying to raise Regional Qualifying Scores to put a few gymnasts into the regional tournament on April 9 in Lincoln, Neb., Farden wasn't really concerned with the outcome.
"It was really nerve-racking, but I was just so happy," Farden said. "It wasn't about wins or losses, it was about coming together as a team and performing. We're looking to build to the future, and this was a big step in the right direction." UIC senior Alyson Cacciatore won the vault with a 9.850, while TWU dominated the other three events. Pioneer senior Rachel Goddard won the beam with a school-record 9.925, freshman Brittany Abney tied Centenary's Kristina Menne and Sarah Racioppi on the floor with 9.900, and TWU sophomore Courtney Arno won the uneven bars with 9.800. Menne brought home the all-around title with 39.100, holding off UIC's O'Neil with 38.975.
UIC's' Jackie Jaworowicz was named Senior of the Year. TWU assistant coach Jackie Fain grabbed Assistant Coach of the Year, and the husband and wife tandem of Peter and Mary Jansson were honored as Coaches of the Year. The All-Conference team consisted of O'Neil and Cacciatore for UIC, Boldt for SEMO, Menne and Racioppi for Centenary, Bloom for ISU and Goddard, Arno and Abney for TWU.