No. 2 Georgia won the meet with a 196.525. Two-time defending champion UCLA took third with a 195.650, while host Florida finished fourth with a 194.475. No. 11 LSU scored a 193.825 to take fifth while Penn State rounded out the scoring with a 193.375.
"We performed exceptionally well tonight," head coach Sarah Patterson said. "I told this team we'd be better as the season goes along. Tonight they showed they are ready to do just that."
Pickens returned to the Tide's lineup after a season-ending injury days before the 2001 NCAA Championships. "One of the highlights of the meet was watching Andree' return to the lineup in national-level form," Patterson said. "It was a heartwarming moment for us."
The Tide's team score was nearly four-tenths better than its 2001 start when they won the Super Six Challenge with a 195.350.
Tonight's meet should setup a "one versus three" match-up between the Lady Dogs and the Crimson Tide next Friday in Tuscaloosa.
"How exciting to have the showdown between two of the best teams in the nation next Friday in Coleman Coliseum," Patterson said of the Tide's Jan. 18 meet against Georgia. "Get ready because "The Big Show" is about to get underway."
Alabama was led by a pair of 9.925 performances by Pickens and a 9.950 floor performance from junior All-American Kristin Sterner. Sterner took fourth in the all-around with a 39.275.
The Tide posted a meet best 49.475 on the floor exercise behind the big, crisp tumbling of Sterner, who scored a 9.95 to lead the Crimson Tide. Her mark ranked her second on the night on the floor. Rookie Alexis Brion started her Tide career with a bang, scoring a 9.925 on the floor while sophomores Stephanie Kite and Lauren Holdefer opened up their season with a matching 9.875s.
"Alexis got her Crimson Tide career off to a stellar start tonight," Patterson said. "I thought she looked great out there on the floor exercise, showing a lot of poise for a rookie."
On the vault, Alabama was led by Pickens third place 9.925 effort in the anchor spot. Alabama posted a team mark of 48.85. Pickens came back in the Tide's last rotation, on the uneven bars, and scored another 9.925 in the anchor spot to lead Alabama to a 49.050 on that event. Pickens finished second on the uneven bars. Alabama also finished second on the beam, just .050 behind UCLA.
Alabama got the meet started with a 48.350 on the balance beam, led by Sterner's 9.775. Sophomore Tiffany Byrd, who stepped into the Tide's lineup last year at the NCAA Championships, made her regular season debut with Alabama's second best score on the beam, a 9.700.
"We drew balance beam to open the meet with," Patterson said. "I think that's difficult event to open the season with. We were a little bit tentative out there tonight, but we still showed a lot of poise in our performances and we will be better than this next weekend."
Alabama faces Georgia January 18 at 7 p.m. in its home opener. Tickets to individual meets go on sale Monday (Jan. 14) at 9 a.m. They will be available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.BAMA), SouthTix (800.240.2300) or the Alabama website www.rolltide.com. Season ticket packages are available through the ticket office and SouthTix.
Team Vault Bars Beam Floor Totals Points 1 Georgia 49.1500 48.7250 49.3250 49.3250 196.5250 2 Alabama 48.8500 49.0500 48.3500 49.4750 195.7250 3 UCLA 49.4000 49.1000 48.2250 48.9250 195.6500 4 Florida 48.1250 47.8000 48.7750 49.1000 193.8000 5 LSU 49.1750 48.1250 47.1500 49.3750 193.8250 6 Penn State 48.1000 47.9250 48.6000 48.7500 193.3750