Bama downs Denver in gymnastics

TUSCALOOSA, ALA - Through two rotations, the Alabama gymnastics team was cruising along, handling an upstart Denver team with relative ease. Then the Tide went to the balance beam in rotation three and things got interesting.

Alabama had two falls and a major wobble while the Pioneers were putting together a solid floor exercise set. Suddenly Alabama went from being up by nearly three quarters of a point to being up by a little more than a tenth of a point.

Alabama collected itself on the floor exercise, posting a 49.225 behind junior All-American Kristin Sterner's meet best 9.925. Denver posted a 48.900 on the balance beam and the Tide won 195.675-195.225. It was the highest road score in Denver history.

Shown on the balance beam last week, true freshman Shannon Hrozek competed officially for the first time tonight.

"Our goal coming into tonight was to score in the 196 range, and we were well on our way to doing that," head coach Sarah Patterson said. "If not for our troubles on balance beam, we hit that goal with room to spare. We have trained hard on balance beam, competing intersquads in practice and really focusing on that event, but I think for us to take a step forward at this point, we have to go six-for-six in a meet and gain the confidence that goes with doing that."

Sterner won the all-around with a 39.350 outpacing Denver sophomore Ashley Shible's 39.200. It marked Sterner's third all-around performance in as many weeks and it was her season best score.

Alabama started things off with a season best 49.125 on the vault led by Sterner's season best 9.900. Freshman Shannon Hrozek made her competitive debut on the vault with a 9.75. Meanwhile Denver opened the meet on the uneven bars and anchored by sophomore Ashley Shibble's 9.9, scored a 48.850.

The Tide produced a solid 49.125 effort on the uneven bars, but when Pickens landed her routine, the last of the Tide's string, for a 9.900, the crowd, enthusiastic throughout the night, came to its feet with a roar.

Things don't let up for the Crimson Tide. Next Saturday, the Tide faces No. 4 ranked Nebraska in Coleman Coliseum. It marks Alabama's third straight home meet. Tickets are available through the Alabama ticket office (205.348.BAMA) and SouthTix (800.240.2300).

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