Tide Gymnasts Host Defending Champs

In a battle of champions, the No. 4 ranked Alabama gymnastics team, winner of the 2011 and 2012 NCAA Championships, will face the defending national champion and current No. 3 ranked Florida Gators Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum.

"Friday is going to be a very exciting meet," Alabama Coach Sarah Patterson said. "Anytime you face the defending NCAA Champion it raises the stakes. I have had Florida at the top of my preseason poll the last several years and I think they're the best team in the country right now."

The Gators won their first NCAA title last season while Alabama, winner of six overall, won the two before that. The Gators also kick off the first of three-straight home meets that will close out the Crimson Tide's regular season.

"These three weeks at home give us an opportunity to be in a great comfort zone in terms of making upgrades to our routines, changes, differences in the line-ups, things like that," Patterson said. "Anything we are going to do we have a three week window before championship season starts. Really we are halfway through the season but we only have three dual meets left."

Friday marks the Tide's fourth home meet of the season and seventh meet against SEC competition. Alabama has one of the nation's toughest schedules. Counting Friday's matchup with the Gators, Alabama counts eight Top-12 teams among its foes to this point in the season. That stretch includes four teams ranked in the top-5 when the Tide met them.

The Gators, who topped the rankings for two weeks in early February, are the third team on this year's Alabama schedule to be ranked No. 1 this season. Oklahoma was No. 1 when Alabama met them last week in Oklahoma City and LSU, who the Tide faced in Baton Rouge to close out the month of January, is No. 1 this week.

Seniors Diandra Milliner and Kim Jacob lead the way for the Tide going into Friday's contest. Milliner is the defending SEC Gymnast of the Week after posting a career-best 39.525 in the all-around and a season-best 9.975 on the vault at the Perfect 10 Meet. Jacob is currently ranked in the top-25 on three of the four apparatus. She has also posted a career-best of 39.525 in the all-around this season, giving the Tide a potent one-two punch.

Florida is led by sophomore Bridget Sloan, the defending NCAA All-Around Champion, junior Kytra Hunter, the 2012 NCAA All-Around Champion and Alaina Johnson, the 2013 NCAA Uneven Bars Champion. As a team, both Alabama and Florida are ranked in the top 10 nationally on all four apparatus.

After taking on Florida this Friday, the Tide remains at home to face Stanford March 7 and Auburn March 14, both at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available now through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum or online at RollTide.com.

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