Forty straight!

AUBURN, ALA - It was the closest Alabama-Auburn gymnastics meet since 1997, but the Crimson Tide pulled out its 40th consecutive dual meet win, 197.300-196.600.

Junior Jeana Rice led the Tide with a 39.700 while senior Kristin Sterner posted a 39.525 to take second. The Tide has not lost to Auburn at any gymnastics competition since 1979.

"Kristin Sterner and Jeana Rice have been rocks for us all season and they have led us every step of the way down this home stretch," head coach Sarah Patterson said.

"There were several high points for us tonight including Dana Pierce's comeback on vaulting after having difficulty on that event the last few meet and Mari Bayer, getting back in the uneven bars lineup tonight and unveiling a new release. Both of those were very important for us as we move on this season."

Alabama counted a 9.275 on the balance beam when its second and third competitors had major breaks. But Michelle Reeser started the Tide off with a 9.9 and Alabama's last three competitors, freshman Mari Bayer, Sterner and Rice all scored 9.9 or better to bring the team score up a 48.900. Auburn scored a 48.975 on the balance beam.

"That is exactly why Kirstin and Jeana are in those spots," Patterson said. "That's why they anchor our lineup. When the pressure is on, there no one else I would want at the end of our lineup."

"With three great events tonight, we were one balance beam routine away from competing with any team in the country" Patterson said. "That gives us something to improve on, strive for and continued motivation going into the SEC Championships. We have not peaked."

Led by Rice's 9.925, Alabama scored a 49.375 on the uneven bars, its fourth best bars score of the season. Sterner got things started for the Tide with a 9.875, a score matched by sophomore Shannon Hrozek. Auburn scored a 48.950 on the uneven bars. Auburn posted a school record 49.475 on the

Rice and freshman Ashley Miles bookended the Tide's vault lineup with a pair of 9.95s to lead Alabama to a 49.525 team score, its second highest of the season. Sophomore Alexis Brion chipped in a 9.9 while freshman Dana Pierce added a 9.875. Auburn opened their night up with a 49.200 on the vault, their second highest score in school history.

The Tide posted a solid 49.500 on the floor exercise paced by a 9.95 from Miles and a pair of 9.9s from Sterner and Rice.

We had seven great floor routines, including Alexis Brion in exhibition," Patterson said. "Alexis had the best routine of the season tonight."

With its last dual meet of the year out of the way, Alabama goes right into the championship season, traveling to near-by Birmingham, and Bartow Arena on the UAB campus Saturday, March 29 at 7 p.m. for the SEC Championships.

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