Titarsolej Ready for Her Debut on the National Stage

Mara Titarsolej is no stranger to making history. The former Dutch National Team member racked up numerous accolades headlining the charter roster of LIU gymnastics, most notably notching the program’s first—and only—perfect 10 in her sophomore season (a rarity in the mid-major EAGL conference). Expectations were naturally high when she announced she’d be transferring to Missouri for her senior season, and Titarsolej has lived up to the hype: She matched her feat from LIU, earning the first perfect 10 on bars in Tigers program history. She’s also the second consecutive Missouri transfer to qualify to NCAAs, following Alisa Sheremeta, who closed out her career as an All-American on beam at last year’s championships. 

The Tigers have not been coy about their willingness to utilize the transfer portal, and given the level of success achieved by Sheremeta and Titarsolej, head coach Shannon Welker suspects the staff will continue to be active in it.

“Our marketing must be working!” Welker said. “We’ve been successful not just because we’ve identified really good gymnasts and gymnastics, which is not hard, but by identifying the right people that really fit into our program and our culture.”

Welker is quick to emphasize that Titarsolej’s value as part of the team extends well beyond the Tigers’ record books.

“We have been so pleased with how well Mara has fit into our team and the leadership she has provided. Having the opportunity to compete at NCAA championships was one of the main reasons she chose the University of Missouri. We are thrilled that she gets this experience.”

Titarsolej can vouch that the transfer process has been an enjoyable process on her side as well. 

“It really helped just being surrounded by so many people that are like-minded and have the same work ethic,” she said. “My favorite part is how we operate as a team. Everyone has an agenda to do their job in the gym, and I get to be with my friends. It’s just so enjoyable.”

Welker echos the sentiment that fun is a key component to the Tigers’ upward trajectory in recent years.

“It should be fun, right? We don’t need to be perfect for our team to be successful,” he said. “Once everybody understands that, it becomes a lot more fun and relaxed and we do better gymnastics as well.”

That strategy is clearly working, as the Tigers posted their second-highest finish in program history, and for the second year running, came within a couple of tenths of returning to nationals. 

“Obviously, we wanted to go a little bit further with our team, but we’re definitely very excited to travel down to Texas with this young lady,” Welker said. “It’s always fun to  represent the University of Missouri on the national stage, and I’m so excited that Mara gets an opportunity to do that. That was one of the things that she was really hoping she’d get a chance to do by coming [here].”

Titarsolej will miss her teammates but is excited for the opportunity nevertheless. 

“It’s bittersweet because we wanted to go as a team and we were so close,” Titarsolej said. “But as an individual, it’s an honor, and we’re coming to represent our team. I think it’s fun, and I just really hope I can do my best there.”

Titarsolej will be rotating with Utah on Thursday and will be the last competitor to go on bars in the second session—a favorable draw for the specialist on the event. She’ll also have a bit of luck on her side, with her mother flying in from Amsterdam to watch the competition.

Nationals can be nerve-wracking for even the best gymnasts. To ensure Titarsolej remains calm and performs at her best, Welker and the rest of the staff have some secret weapons up their sleeves.

“I’m getting a list of jokes ready for Mara!” Welker said. “We have some entertainment ready because she’s used to talking to 15 other teammates. This is going to be a different experience, and you just want to make sure that it’s is it fun as if you went with your team or at least as close as possible.” 

Whatever the outcome in Fort Worth, Titarsolej is already looking ahead to next season. “I just feel like I’m not done yet. Obviously, bars is going well, but I started on beam this year and I think I have a lot more to give to the team.”

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Article by Claire Billman

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