Alabama Gets Tough Draw

The Alabama gymnastics team, advancing to its 25th consecutive NCAA Championships, got a tough draw. Bama was informed that it will compete in the tough afternoon session of the preliminary day of competition held next week in Salt Lake City, Utah. Additionally, the Crimson Tide will finish on the difficult balance beam apparatus.

Alabama, the NCAA Central Region Champions, will see plenty of familiar faces in the very tough afternoon session that will get underway at Thursday, April 26 at 1 p.m. MT. Southeastern Conference foes Florida and Georgia, ranked first and second at the end of the regular season, will join the Crimson Tide, ranked number three nationally.

Oklahoma, which Alabama saw to open the season and at last Saturday's Tuscaloosa-based regional, will join the SEC trio. Nebraska, ranked sixth going into regionals, and Oregon State round out the afternoon session.

"I think when you get to the NCAA Championships, any draw that you get is going to be tough," Alabama Coach Sarah Patterson said. "I told the ladies today that we don't need to be looking over our shoulders because we've seen Georgia and Florida numerous times this year and we've seen Oklahoma twice."

Host school Utah will be joined in the evening session, which gets underway at 7 p.m. MT on Thursday, by UCLA, Michigan, Stanford, LSU and Denver. The sessions were decided by a random draw, with three winners and three second place teams from the six regionals going into each session.

"I feel that we have seen the best teams in the country and we just have to go out the first day and focus on our own performance and not on anyone else," Patterson said. "I think that will be key."

The top three teams from both of Thursday's sessions will advance to the NCAA Super Six Team Finals on Friday night.

Auburn junior Julie Dwyer will rotate with the Crimson Tide on Thursday after qualifying as an all-arounder.

Alabama also learned they will start on the floor exercise in the afternoon session and then advance to the vault before taking a bye. The Tide will finish up on the uneven bars and balance beam before sitting off the floor on a bye for the last rotation.

"Is there any other rotation for us at the national championships?" Patterson said with a laugh. "It seems like that's all we every draw. We've done it a lot and we've done really well ending on beam. It's just ironic that's where we draw again."

Alabama won its 22nd NCAA Regional Championship Saturday with a 196.700. The Tide's 25 consecutive NCAA Championship appearances is matched only by Utah, which has been to all 26 NCAA Championships. The Crimson Tide has won four NCAA titles – 2002, 1996, 1991 and 1988. The Tide's first title, in 1988, came in Salt Lake City.

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