By: Missouri Gymnastics Student Beat Writer, Amanda Nusbaum
COLUMBIA, Mo. - When most athletes come to college, they are leaving the places they have been competing in for a majority of their lives. The fan-bases are different (usually broader) and it makes the atmosphere change-over even larger. A small handful of athletes, however, choose to stay in their hometowns. They will recall coming to competitions when they were younger and dreaming of being the ones to compete on the floor. For one such Missouri Tigers gymnast, freshman Angie Kern, Columbia has always been her home.
The Rock Bridge graduate competed for Mizzou for the first time in her collegiate career at the exhibition meet on Dec. 8 against Lindenwood University. Kern noted how surreal it was to look up in the Hearnes Center crowd and see young girls watching her compete and remembering when it was the other way around. For the first time in over 13 years, she was no longer the on-looker, but would be able to call herself part of the group that inspires those young girls who dream of one day becoming a collegiate gymnast as well.
One large factor for Kern staying in Columbia is the fact that all of her family and friends are close enough that they can come out and support her and the rest of the team. The audience as a whole that Sunday afternoon against Lindenwood was very different for Kern.
"In club, it was always a few family members, teammates and coaches watching you, but here, it is an entire arena," said Kern.
For collegiate gymnastics, the primary focus is on the success of the team as a whole, rather than just the individual performances in club competitions. At Mizzou and NCAA meets across the country, the team scores are most important and thus can be completely dependent on how well an individual performs and it is important for the team to stand behind each girl as she competes. During floor routines, for example, the team will line up on one side of the floor and add in their own flair during certain points in the music.
Despite the jump up in competition level, Kern, who scored a 9.700 on floor and 9.750 on vault during the exhibition, thought the judging was about the same as she saw in club.
"In college, it is all about fine tuning details and cleaning up your form to make the routines more precise," Kern stated. "In gymnastics, and especially in college now, you are always hoping that your routines score well and get even better throughout the season."
As all gymnasts do, Kern will strive to score even higher each meet, starting with her team's season opener against Alabama this Friday, Jan. 10 at 7:30 p.m. CT. The Tigers will look to avenge their loss to the Crimson Tide from last season and begin their second season in the SEC with full force.