GymTiders pack their snow skis

The No. 1 ranked Alabama Gymnastics team is back on the road after a one meet reprieve from traveling. <br><br>The Crimson Tide travels to Denver, Colorado, to face the 14th ranked Denver Pioneers and the Air Force Falcons Saturday (Feb. 8) at 6 p.m.

The meet will mark the first time that Alabama has made the trip to Denver. The Pioneers were in Tuscaloosa last January, when the Tide came away with a 195.675-195.225 victory.

Denver is a program on the rise, having made it to their first NCAA Championship meet in 2001. The Pioneers just missed last year's national championship meet in Tuscaloosa last season.

The Pioneers, led by fifth-year head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart, are the nation's No. 3 ranked squad on the floor exercise, an event where the Tide is ranked No. 1.

"It's going to be a great competition," Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. "As I've said, this is a fan's schedule. There are no real breaks, or easy spots, on it. Melissa has done a great job in Denver and they are very tough at home. We will not be able to count a break and win this meet."

Sarah and David Patterson are acquainted with Rinehart not only as a coach, but as competitor as well. As Melissa Kutcher, she competed for the Florida Gators 1989-92. She was on the last Gator team to win an SEC title, in 1989. She was also an assistant coach at Michigan at the same time the current Tide assistant Bryan Raschilla was with the Wolverines.

For the Tide, this is the last long trip they will make until the national championships in April.

Alabama will be without the services of freshman Ashley Miles, whose knee injury, which came in practice the Wednesday before the Michigan meet, is still being evaluated. The Tide coaches are "cautiously optimistic" that Miles will be able to return to the lineup soon.

Junior Jeana Rice continues to have a standout season. The eight-time All-American scored a career-high 39.750 in the all-around last weekend in the Tide's lone home meet so far this season. She also posted a career best 9.975 on the uneven bars. For her efforts she was named SEC Gymnast of the Week.

Sarah Patterson has indicated that in addition to freshmen Dana Filetti and Larissa Stewart, who will step in for the injured Miles, freshman Rachael Delahoussaye could also see action against Denver and Air Force.

After its trip to the Mile High City (the Tide's fifth road contest in six outings), Alabama returns home to take on the LSU Tigers Friday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum.

Tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) or online at www.rolltide.com.


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