Tide Gymnasts Still Not The (No.) One

There was a suspicion that Alabama would be number one in the nation in as many as three women's sports this week. Golf has been first all year; softball was No. 2 last week but coming off a three-game sweep of No. 1 Georgia; and gymnastics was No. 2 before beating top-ranked Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship meet last week.

But things are not always as it seems they should be. Alabama continues to be ranked second in the nation, just a fraction of a point behind Florida. Oregon State jumped to nmber three, while Stanford fell to fourth. Oklahoma is fifth, followed by UCLA, Utah, Georgia, Michigan, and Nebraska.

The Crimson Tide of Coach Sarah Patterson won its seventh SEC title with a stellar vault rotation, and Bama is ranked number one in the nation in the vault. Additionally, junior Geralen Stack-Easton is the nation's top-ranked gymnast on the balance beam.

Alabama scored a 49.5 on the vault at the SEC Championships, the highest event total of any team on any event at the meet, while Stack-Eaton won the balance beam with a 9.925, which pushed her into the No. 1 spot.

Alabama is also the number one seed for the NCAA Regionals that will be held in Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa at 6 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 2. Alabama will host No. 11 Penn State, No. 14 Illinois, No. 22 Auburn, No. 25 Central Michigan and No. 30 Kentucky in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional. Tickets for that event are on sale online at RollTide.com and through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum.

In addition to its No. 1 ranking on the vault, the Tide is second on the floor exercise, third on the balance beam and fourth on the uneven bars.

Individually, senior Kayla Hoffman and Stack-Eaton are ranked in the top 25 on all four apparatus and the all-around. Hoffman, the SEC vault champion, is third in the all-around, second on the vault, 13th on the uneven bars and balance beam and 19th on the floor exercise. In addition to being first on the balance beam, Stack-Eaton is 14th in the all-around, 11th on the uneven bars, 16th on the vault and 22nd on the floor exercise.

Freshman Diandra Milliner is third on the vault and 12th on the floor exercise while sophomore Ashley Sledge is 17th on the uneven bars and 20th on the vault. Freshmen Sarah DeMeo and Kim Jacob are seventh and 17th respectively on the balance beam.

"In basketball, if you win the SEC tournament, that propels you to the NCAA tournament," Patterson said. "In our sport, it does not; SECs is all about the ring and the bling. Now, for us, it comes down to regionals."

The top two teams from each regional move on to the NCAA Championships, which will be held April 15-17 in Cleveland, Ohio.

"This is the part of the season where we're the most like basketball," Patterson said. "Whatever you've done up to this point is over with and you have to do it on that given night to move on."

This will mark the 12th time Alabama has hosted a regional, with the last time coming in 2009 when the Tide won the regional and led the nation in regional attendance. Alabama has won an NCAA-best 25 regional titles and advanced to the NCAA Championships 28 years in a row.

The Tide will start the regional on the floor exercise and will then move to the vault before taking its first bye of the evening. Alabama will finish the meet with the uneven bars and balance beam, before sitting out on a bye during the sixth and final rotation.

The Tide is familiar with the regional field, having already seen Kentucky and Auburn twice this season, and also facing Penn State to open the season. Bama went against Central Michigan and Illinois at last year's NCAA Lexington Regional.

"We won't be looking around at anyone else, because we've seen these teams for the most part," Patterson said.

Each regional team will have an individual gymnast from a school that did not advance rotating with it. Ball State Brittney Emmons will rotate with the Crimson Tide. The top two all-arounders from each regional from a team that is not advancing will also earn a bid to Cleveland.

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