Bama Gymnastics Defending Title

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The No. 1 ranked Alabama gymnastics Team will begin the defense of its Southeastern Conference Championship on the vault and will finish the night on a bye at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena Saturday starting at 4 p.m. CDT.



The Crimson Tide, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation on the vault, will move to a bye in the second rotation, followed by the uneven bars and balance beam before it goes to another bye. The Tide will then finish competition on the floor exercise and will sit out the seventh rotation on a bye.

Alabama followed the same order of events last year in Nashville when it won its sixth SEC title, though in 2009 the Tide started on a bye before moving to the vault and finished off the night on the floor exercise.

There are five teams from the Southeastern Conference ranked in the top-10 nationally – No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 Florida, No. 5 Georgia, No. 8 Arkansas and No. 10 LSU. All seven SEC teams that sponsor gymnastics are ranked in the top 20 with Auburn at No. 15 and Kentucky at No. 18.

"I think the SEC does so well when it comes to the championship season because we've pushed each other through the regular season," UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. "No one is looking over their shoulder when it comes to this time of year."

Alabama comes into this year's championship season with a veteran team, led by senior All-American Morgan Dennis and sophomore All-American Ashley Priess, both of whom are ranked in the top-12 nationally in the all-around. All-Americans Ricki Lebegern, Kassi Price and Kayla Hoffman along with All-SEC sophomore Geralen Stack-Eaton have all been instrumental in Alabama maintaining the top spot in the national rankings for a majority of the season.

"We've not talked about defending, mainly because the majority of the athletes that are competing in our lineup right now, with the exception of (freshmen) Marissa Gutierrez and Ashley Sledge, have had that championship experience," Patterson said. "They all know what it's like and they all stood on the football field this fall in front of 95,000 fans to get our SEC Championship rings. Everybody wants that experience again."

Before the draw, Alabama went through a nearly two-hour practice, adjusting to the equipment, the arena and the podium. The Crimson Tide's radio broadcast of the championships will be on WVUA 90.7-FM in Tuscaloosa and can also be heard online. The link for the radio broadcast can be found on www.gymtide.com. A link to live scores can be found on www.secsports.com and the meet will be televised on a tape-delayed basis on ESPN2 Sunday, April 4 at 10 a.m. CDT.

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