It was a teary-eyed moment for those three and senior manager Allison Spidle, as they came together after the last routine with red and white confetti falling all around them for a group hug and one last wave to the home crowd. The 9,138 fans in attendance pushed Alabama's season average to 10,283, the second best in school history and the third best nationally over the past decade.
"This is just a great venue for these ladies," head coach Sarah Patterson said of her seniors. "They have worked really hard and put so much into this program and into performing at their absolute peak for the fans. It was just really, really nice for them to able to go out one last time in Coleman Coliseum and show our fans how much they mean to us."
But Rice was quick to point out that she and her teammates were far from done with the season.
"This was great, and our fans mean the world to us, they are the best," Rice said. "But we have one more dual meet and then we have the post season. Tonight was awesome but we still have work to do."
Rice won her fourth all-around competition of the season with a 39.575 while junior Shannon Hrozek put together a 39.325 to take second. The Lady Razorbacks' 196.450 tied their school record while the Tide's score was its seventh consecutive 197-plus score.
The Tide finished off the night strong, posting a 49.475 on the floor exercise, its third best floor total of the season. Rice wrapped up her final home meet with a 9.925 to share top honors with Brion. Kite and Holdefer concluded their home careers by matching their season best marks of 9.90 and 9.875 respectively.
As befitting of her senior leader status, Rice posted a meet best 9.975 on the vault, pacing the Tide to a 49.375. Junior Shannon Hrozek once again got the Tide off to a strong start on the vault, scoring a 9.900, her fourth consecutive mark of 9.9 or better. Holdefer tied her career best on the vault, posting a 9.850.
In rotation two, Alabama had three gymnasts, Hrozek, once again in the lead off spot, Rice and sophomore Mari Bayer, all post 9.875s, leading to a 49.325 team score. Alabama scored a 49.150 on the balance beam, led by Brion, who made her first collegiate foray into the competitive balance beam line-up a routine to remember, posting a 9.900 to win the event.
Alabama is off from competition next weekend before finishing off the regular season on the road at Michigan Friday, March 12.
Bama the National Leader in Gymnastics Attendance
Last Friday night, Alabama Gymnastics drew 12,971 fans to see the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide to face No. 2 Georgia. It was the largest gymnastics crowd in the nation this year and the sixth largest of the last decade.
And when 9,138 fans made their way to Friday's meet against Arkansas, it pushed Alabama to a final season average of 10,283 per meet, which stands as the second best average in Alabama history. The Tide averaged 10,301 in 1997. It is the highest season average in the nation over the past five years and the third highest of the past decade.
Alabama Gymnastics figures prominently in the "biggest crowd" list over the past 10 years. Since 1995, the first year the Crimson Tide broke the 10,000 fan mark for a single meet, the Tide has posted seven of the 10 highest single meet attendance totals in the nation. Those seven meets include the SEC record of 15,043 in 1997, which is the single largest crowd of the last decade.
The Tide's 12,971 against Georgia is the largest Alabama crowd since 14,097 poured into Coleman Coliseum in 1999. Overall, Alabama has produced 15 crowds of 10,000-plus, including seven that rank nationally in the top-20 meets of all time.
Alabama and Utah have dominated the attendance rankings over the past two decades. The two schools combine to hold all 20 of the 12,000-plus meets of all time.
Top 10 All-Time NCAA Gymnastics Crowds
- 15,043 - Alabama vs. Georgia, 2-1-97
- 14,285 - Utah vs. BYU, 3-23-02
- 14,097 - Alabama vs. Georgia, 2-13-99
- 13,563 - Alabama vs. Georgia, 3-1-96
- 13,363 - Utah vs. Michigan/UCLA, 2-20-95
- 12,971 - Alabama vs. Georgia 2-20-04
- 12,573 - Alabama vs. Georgia 1-17-98
- 12,316 - Alabama vs. Georgia 2-4-00
- 12,201 - Utah vs. BYU, 2-4-00
- 12,021 - Alabama vs. Georgia 2-4-95