It could hardly have been better for Alabama gymnastics Friday night in Coleman Coliseum. The No. 6 Crimson Tide got a perfect 10 from junior Kiana Winston, Bama turned in its best performance of the year, and it was Alabama defeating No. 3 Florida, 197.825-197.425.
Moreover, Bama’s win took place in front of 14,423 in what is the most important meet of the regular season, the Crimson Tide’s annual Power of Pink meet to bring awareness of the fight against breast cancer. Prior to the meet, each Alabama gymnast was introduced in the spotlight with a breast cancer survivor, and in some cases two survivors, to highlight the ongoing fight against breast cancer championed by the Power of Pink, which was started by former gymnastics coach and Alabama legend Sarah Patterson in 2004.
In gymnastics, the team score really counts more than the team record, particularly for a team like Alabama that competes against the very best teams. Thus, conventional wisdom prior to the meet was that while a win over the Gators would be quite good, it was more important to have a good score.
Check both those boxes.
"We needed that," Alabama Coach Dana Duckworth said."I could not be prouder of the amazing amount of teamwork our ladies showed tonight."
And the best work was by Al;abama junior Kiana Winston. In a tight meet – Alabama led by only .075 going to the final rotation, and the Gators produced a strong 49.300 on beam – led by Winston’s perfect 10, the Tide had its second consecutive outstanding rotation on floor, a season-best 49.625 to assure Tide victory.
"It felt really good to go out there and do my gymnastics for someone else," said following a career night. "I didn't know how well I was doing, I was going out there, having fun and keeping a smile on my face."
"The ladies were comfortable and relaxed," Duckworth said. "They did what they needed to do. Were we perfect? No, and we talked about that, telling them, 'don't worry about perfect, worry about staying present.' They went from one routine to the next, mistake or not they moved forward and did what we had been asking them to do all season long."
And according to the judges, Kiana Winston was perfect in her final event of the evening.
"Kianna does it all the time in practice," senior Amanda Jetter said. "She does 10.0 floor routines all the time in practice, so we're kind of used to it. It's exciting that she finally was rewarded for it because she deserves every bit that she gets. She's such a hard worker, and she comes in with a smile on her face every day. Even though I'm a senior, I look up to Kiana because of her hard work and dedication."
Winston’s 10 was the first of her career and just the third on floor exercise in the nation this season.
Senior Aja Sims closed out the night and the Gators with a 9.95. Freshman Maddie Desch added a 9.925 and junior Nickie Guerrero a 9.9 to pace Alabama.
Alabama opened the night with a 49.375 on the vault, tying its season-best score. A 9.925 from Guerrero and matching 9.875s from sophomore Abby Armbrecht and senior Katie Bailey led the way on vault for the Tide.
Less than a week after struggling on the uneven bars in a tough win over Auburn, Alabama posted a season-best 49.400 on the event, led by a 9.95 from Winston, a 9.925 from Bailey and a 9.9 from senior Amanda Jetter. It was Winston’s sixth 9.95 of the season.
The Tide fought to a 49.425 on the balance beam, paced by 9.9s from senior Aja Sims and Winston and 9.95 in the anchor spot by Guerrero.
Winston won the all-around with a career-best 39.700, the third highest total in the nation this season. The junior's 10.0 won the floor exercise while her 9.95 won the uneven bars. Guerrero won the balance beam with a 9.95 and the vault with a 9.925.
Alabama returns to the road next weekend, traveling to Lexington to take on No. 10 Kentucky on Friday.