Alabama Gymnasts Host No. 1 Sooners

After posting the top road score in the nation this season, the No. 4 ranked Alabama gymnastics team returns to Coleman Coliseum this Friday to close out the regular season against No. 1 Oklahoma.

The Crimson Tide posted a season-high 197.725 in Baton Rouge to beat the Tigers. It was UA's fourth consecutive score of 197-plus this season. Bama Coach Sarah Patterson believes the steady improvement Alabama has made this season showcases the Tide's overall strength and depth.

"Over the last several meets we've held Ashley Sledge and Diandra Milliner out on floor and we've held Marissa out because of her ankle – but our team hasn't dropped," Patterson said. "Our scores have stayed the same or gotten higher. So if we could just somehow get that puzzle put together with all the right pieces at the end, I think we have a lot of potential."

Senior Ashley Priess, who led the Tide against the Tigers, was named SEC Gymnast of the Week for her efforts. She posted the team's highest individual scores of the season on balance beam and uneven bars, scoring a 9.950 and 9.925, respectively.

Sophomore Kayla Williams won the vault and posted the Tide's best score of the season on any event with a 9.975. Junior Kim Jacob posted her eighth consecutive score of 9.9 or better on the floor exercise, tying her career-best with a 9.95. She also matched her season-best score of a 9.925 on the balance beam.

Priess and the rest of this year's seniors - Becca Alexin, Marissa Gutierrez and Ashley Sledge - will be honored as part of Friday's Senior Night activities. Although this night will be memorable for the four gymnasts who are winding up their careers, Patterson said they need to remain focused.

"I don't want it to be too emotional because we have a lot to do and we have to use it in a positive light, rather than losing our focus," Patterson said. "It's all about moving this team forward and competing against the No. 1 team in the country."

Friday's meet will be Alabama's tenth of the season and only its second against non-SEC competition. Oklahoma, at 19-0, is coming off back-to-back home wins last weekend, competing against No. 15 Arizona on Friday and hosting a tri-meet on Sunday against North Carolina and No. 12 Stanford.

"Oklahoma is undefeated and I'm impressed with everything they do," Patterson said. "They also had a meet Friday night and then they had a meet Sunday and now they're traveling to us on Friday. This late in the season, that's a test of what a great team they are. I think Oklahoma has been one of the best teams in the country over the last few years."

The Sooners last traveled to the Tide in 2009, where the Tide prevailed over the No. 10 Sooners 196.725-196.525. Alabama fell to the Sooners last year in Norman – in what was the Tide' s only loss of the regular season, before continuing on to win the national championship.

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