Alabama Gymnasts Open Season No. 2

The defending national champion Alabama gymnastics team is ranked second in the 2012 preseason coaches' poll that was released today. The Crimson Tide, which won its fifth NCAA title last April, received 17 first-place votes--more than any other team--and 926 points.

The top-five spots in the 2012 rankings mirror last year's preseason poll, with UCLA once again starting the year at No. 1 with eight first-place votes and 932 points while Southeastern Conference rival Florida is No. 3 with eight first-place votes and 903 points.

"My vote was very similar to what actually came out, although I had Florida at No. 1 and Georgia in the top five," Alabama Coach Sarah Patterson said. "I think the Gators are the most talented team in the nation coming into the season. There are so many great teams this year; I can't wait to get the season underway."

Oklahoma and Utah are again fourth and fifth, respectively, with the Sooners picking up two first-place votes and the Utes one. No. 7 Oregon State, No. 8 Stanford and No. 10 Michigan all received first-place votes this season while Nebraska, at No. 6, and Georgia, at No. 9, round out this top-10.

"I think the voting shows that everyone expects this season to be very competitive," Patterson said. "There are a lot of teams out there that people think will have a chance to win the national championship. It's definitely a very exciting time to be a part of this sport."

In addition to the three SEC teams that are the top 10, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn and Kentucky all figure in the top 25, coming in at 11th, 12th, 17th and 23rd respectively.

"With five teams in the top 12 and all seven teams in the top 25, I don't think there's any doubt that the Southeastern Conference continues to be the nation's premiere gymnastics conference," Patterson said.

Alabama opens the season at home against No. 9 Georgia on Jan. 13 in the first of five Fun, Family Fridays in Coleman Coliseum.

"Even though we only lost four routines to graduation from last year's NCAA Championships, this team will be very different from last year's in terms of its personality and chemistry," Patterson said. "As coaches, we're very excited to introduce this newest edition of the Crimson Tide to the best fans in the world."

Alabama will face six of the nation's top-13 teams during the regular season and eight teams that are ranked in the top-25.

"Our schedule is once again among the toughest in the nation," Patterson said. "We won't be looking back over our shoulders once we get to the postseason because we will have already been tested against some great teams."

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