A team can’t win the NCAA Gymnastics Championships on the first day of performance. Twelve teams make it to the semifinals round and the top three in two six-team competitions advance to the finals. That’s where a team can win the title.
No one knows the procedure better than Alabama. In the 25 years of the format, the Crimson Tide has advanced from the semifinals to the Super Six 23 times, more than any other program. No. 23 came Friday as Coach Dana Duckworth’s Bama team used its third-highest score of the season, a 197.600, in the evening session of semifinals to advance to Saturday’s Super Six in St. Louis.
The Crimson Tide finished third in its session, with LSU (198.2750) and Florida (197.8125) making it an all Southeastern Conference affair out of the second semifinal. Nebraska (197.2125) was fourth, followed by Michigan (196.4625) and Georgia (195.8000). From the first semifinal session earlier in the day, Oklahoma, UCLA and Utah advanced to Saturday’s final.
The NCAA Super Six Team Final gets underway at 8 p.m. CT and will air live on ESPN2.
Friday night, Alabama started things off with a 49.3875 on the floor exercise led by a 9.9375 from junior Kiana Winston and 9.875s from seniors Katie Bailey and Aja Sims. On vault, Bailey and senior Keely McNeer both went 9.8875 to pace the Crimson Tide to a 49.3625.
It was McNeer’s first turn in the vault lineup since breaking a finger in a car accident prior to the Georgia meet in early March. It also marked the first time she has ever done a one and a half vault in collegiate competition. The one and a half comes from a 10.0 start value.
Coming off its first of two byes on the night, Alabama caught fire on the uneven bars, scoring 49.4875 led by Bailey’s 9.95. Winston and McNeer both scored 9.9s on the uneven bars. It was a season-best score on the uneven bars for McNeer and her first routine in the uneven bars lineup since February.
Bailey’s score won the NCAA uneven bars title, earning Alabama its 27th individual national title and the senior’s second after taking first on the vault last season.
More than four-tenths of a point ahead of Nebraska going into its final rotation, the balance beam, the Tide made it interesting with a fall in the third position, but closed out strong to secure a 49.3625 and stay well ahead of the Cornhuskers. Freshman Wynter Childers started things off with a 9.8875, followed by a 9.925 from Sims. Following the fall, freshman Maddie Desch earned a 9.8 while Winston went 9.8875 and Guerrero closed things out with a 9.8625.