Gymnastics ready for SEC championships

The Alabama Gymnastics team makes the short trip to Birmingham and Bartow Arena on the UAB campus for the 2003 Southeastern Conference Championship held this Saturday (March 29) at 6 p.m.

The SEC Championships has long been a six team meet, but this season will be different. Gymnastics newcomer Arkansas will compete. The Ladybacks inclusion in the meet necessitated the addition of a seventh rotation to the meet. And for the last 13 years, the title has gone to either Alabama or Georgia, another thing that could change this year as Florida and LSU both sport strong teams.

The Crimson Tide is coming off its highest scoring regular season, averaging over a 197 for the season. But the competition promises to be fierce with five of the seven teams ranked in the top 20, including No. 4 Georgia and No. 8 Florida. The Gators are perhaps the league's most improved team coming into the meet.

While the SEC Championships have no more bearing on the rest of the postseason than a regular season meet, there is the pride factor of being named champion of the nation's top league.

The Crimson Tide is coming into the meet as healthy as they have been all season. Ashley Miles, Shannon Hrozek, Mari Bayer and Alexis Brion, out at different points of the season, are all ready for action.

Anchoring the Tide's lineup are the all-around duo of junior Jeana Rice and senior Kristin Sterner. Rice is the nation's top ranked all-arounder while Sterner has been a top-15 fixture through the year.

Alabama was second at this meet a year ago, finishing a tenth of a point behind Georgia. The defending NCAA Champions last won the league crown in 2000 when Sterner was a freshman.

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