Alabama Gymnasts Win SEC Title

The No. 4 ranked Alabama gymnastics team used a huge final rotation at the Southeastern Conference Championships held in Birmingham, Saturday night to win its eighth SEC Championship.

"This one, this one is about the ring," an elated Alabama Coach Sarah Patterson said after her team lifted the trophy.

Alabama scored a 197.875 in front of a raucous crowd of 8,256 in the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center to push past No. 1 Florida, which scored a 197.700. No. 2 ranked LSU was third with a 197.325 and No. 6 Georgia took fourth with a 197.150.

"We're going to enjoy this for a day or two," Patterson said. "Then we're going to focus on the most important meet of the year. That's the regional championship because that's the one that's going to get us back to Birmingham.

The Crimson Tide trailed by .125 going into the last rotation and headed to the uneven bars while the Gators went to the floor exercise. Alabama powered through six 9.9 or better scores in a row to post a 49.650, setting a new school record on the uneven bars, paced by junior Kaitlyn Clark's career-best 9.975, while the Gators threw a 49.350 on the floor exercise.

Just prior to the uneven bars rotation, Patterson gathered her team together.

"I just told them I wanted them to be aggressive," Patterson said. "I didn't want them to back off. We were going for every tenth of a point that we could, and they did a great job. That's the best bar performance we had this year."

Alabama finished before the Gators after 9.9s from freshman Katie Bailey, senior Kim Jacob and Amanda Jetter, a 9.95 from freshman Aja Sims and Clark's 9.975. After sophomore Bridget Sloan, the defending NCAA All-Around Champion, scored a 9.95 on the floor exercise in Florida's fifth spot, it came down to the last score for the Gators. A 9.925 and the two teams would tie for the championship, a 9.95 or better and the Gators would win.

In the end, after an out of bounds deduction, Florida's last score was a 9.75 and the trophy and the ring that goes with it, belonged to Alabama.

"Florida's a great team," Alabama coach Sarah Patterson said. "We've just been really blessed this year to be on on the right night. These ladies have worked hard. I don't think they're intimidated by anyone, and certainly, our seniors are the heart and soul of this program."

Alabama started off the meet with a 49.275 on the balance beam, paced by 9.9s from Sims and Jacob. On the floor exercise, the Crimson Tide closed the rotation out with three 9.9 or better scores including a 9.95 from Milliner which pushed Alabama to a 49.425 team score. Jacob and sophomore Lauren Beers both scored 9.9s.

Alabama posted four 9.9 or better routines to finish off its vault rotation, including a 9.975 from Milliner, her second of the season. Senior Sarah DeMeo, Jacob and Beers all scored matching 9.9s.

"I think you're going to see these teams contend again for an NCAA Championship," Patterson said. "But for us, we're going to enjoy this for a day or two, and then we're going to focus on the most important meet of the year. That's the Regional Championship because that's the one that's going to get us back to Birmingham."

The Tide will find out where it heads for the NCAA Regional Championships on Monday.

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