Someone who understands the landscape of gymnastics from an Alabama viewpoint suggested in the preseason that a daunting schedule might mean a rough start for the Crimson Tide. But, he added, Bama could be a national championship contender by the end of the season.
Part of the problem with gymnastics is that the visiting team in a sport that is judged is often at a big disadvantage, even more than basketball. Still, not many would have predicted that No. 5 Alabama would lose to No. 23 Arkansas, even in Fayetteville.
That is what happened Friday night, and it may have been in part because of what lies ahead. Bama fell by a score of 195.825-195.325 to the Razorbacks. On Sunday, Alabama goes to Birmingham to take on Auburn.
Following the loss to Arkansas, Alabama Coach Dana Duckworth said, “We had a plan tonight and we stuck with it. Individually we had some people who did not deliver what they are capable of. We will learn from tonight and move forward. I chose to test our depth tonight and learned a lot in the process.”
Individually, the Crimson Tide won all four apparatus, with senior Katie Bailey taking first on the vault and uneven bars, sharing top honors on the bars with fellow senior Amanda Jetter. Senior Aja Sims won the balance beam while junior Kiana Winston won the floor exercise.
Alabama opened the night with a very different uneven bars lineup with sophomore Abby Armbrecht making her Crimson Tide debut on the event and senior Keely McNeer, usually Alabama’s lead off, going in the anchor position. Led by 9.875s from Jetter and Bailey, Alabama posted a team score of 49.125
The Tide’s vault lineup was switched around as well, with sophomore Jenna Bresette leading Alabama off in her 2017 debut and Alabama’s usual lead off, McNeer, again going deeper in the lineup. Behind Bailey’s 9.825 and a 9.8 from McNeer, Alabama posted a 48.925 team score.
Trouble came early in Alabama’s floor exercise lineup with two falls in its first three routines. Winston got things back on track with her third consecutive 9.9-plus floor routine of the season, going 9.925, pulling Alabama up to a 48.300. The Tide closed with a 49.950 on the balance beam, paced by Sims’ winning 9.9 and a 9.825 from Armbrecht
Alabama returns to action Sunday against No. 16 Auburn with the third-annual Elevate the Stage meet in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena at 4 p.m. CST.
Alabama returns home on Feb. 3 to take on Florida in the Crimson Tide's 13th annual Power of Pink meet.