The No. 6 Alabama gymnastics team hosts No. 5 Arkansas Friday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum in the eighth annual Power of Pink meet. Head coach Sarah Patterson's Power of Pink initiative, sponsored by Tuscaloosa Toyota, helps raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer. "It's going to be a great meet and I fully expect it to come down, once again, to the last two athletes on each side on the last rotation," Patterson said. "But more than that, it's for a tremendous cause, one that this community has truly embraced." Both the Crimson Tide and the Razorbacks, who also competed in the 2008 Power of Pink meet, will put aside their school colors for the night and wear pink leotards. Fans are also encouraged to "Think Pink and Wear Pink" for the event.
Alabama has come to embrace the pink. The Tide is 16-0 when wearing pink, including three wins against Florida, Arkansas and Auburn. The gymnasts say that, while it is just another meet, there is an extra element to competing for more than just their team. "For me, it’s an honor, as a female athlete, to be able to give back to this issue and to promote it through a gymnastics meet that we love to do already," junior Ashley Sledge said. "It really just takes the pressure off of us. It’s more of a joy that you get to compete for so many people who have survived such an illness. They give me a motivation." Senior Ashley Priess, echoed Sledge’s sentiments. "We always look forward to the pink meet because it’s so awesome to take the focus off ourselves and put it on the people who really deserve it," Priess said. "I feel very blessed to be an ambassador to inspire women."
"Arkansas is having a great season, probably the best season that they've ever had in their program," junior Ashley Sledge said. "We're having a fantastic season as well, and we are definitely ready for the competition on Friday." Arkansas' gymnastics program is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. Alabama coach Sarah Patterson said that 11 years ago, a University of Arkansas plane brought athletic department officials to Tuscaloosa to see how Alabama's gymnastics program was run. "In 10 years, they built a program that can contend for an SEC and a national championship," Patterson said.
This is alumnae weekend, and while the "Power of Pink" meet and alumni weekend have coincided before, this year there’s something extra. This meet will also be a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the 2002 national championship team. Newberry, who competed on beam and floor from 2002-05, is one of the alumnae who has returned for the celebration. While she has season tickets for gymnastics, alumnae weekend is a great chance for her to see all her old friends and her coach again. "The group of girls that I was close to have been emailing for months, talking about when are we getting in, where are we staying," she said. "So to come in and celebrate the 10th anniversary, which is just absolutely crazy, is really exciting. … It’s laid back. You don’t have the pressure of competing or performing. It’s literally they’re your family, and you’re coming back to hang out."
The No. 2 ranked Alabama softball team returns to the diamond this weekend with four games in three days as part of the SEC/ACC/BIG XII Challenge in Auburn, Ala. The Crimson Tide will open tournament play on Friday evening against No. 23 Georgia Tech of the ACC at 5:30 p.m. On Saturday, the Tide will play two games, opening with ACC foe Virginia Tech at 10 a.m., and finishing the day against 2011 WCWS participant and fourth ranked Oklahoma of the Big XII at 12:30 p.m. Alabama will conclude tournament play on Sunday against another ranked Big XII foe and 2011 WCWS participant, No. 15 Oklahoma State at 9 a.m.
Ready or not, the Crimson Tide begins its 2012 season at 6:05 p.m. Friday with a home game against Florida Atlantic, and young pitchers will be tested from the start. Taylor Guilbeau, a 6-foot-4 left-hander from Zachary, La., will become what it believed to be the first Alabama freshman to start a season opener, and other fresh faces are right behind him. "There's not many guys where we can say, 'If this doesn't work, we're going a different direction,'" Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We're committed to these young guys. I'm talking seven, eight freshmen, not two or three."
Third-year coach Mitch Gaspard said he tinkered with the idea of throwing three freshmen out there this weekend before settling on bookend appearances. The plan calls for 50-60 pitches for each starter, with the left-handed Guilbeau getting the first crack at outside competition. "I think he's a young guy that's going to be able to handle that opening-day start," Gaspard said. "I'm sure there's going to be jitters like there will be with anyone, but he's shown us through the fall and early spring that he has that good mentality that you're looking for."
Alabama rocketed to a huge halftime lead against No. 7 Kentucky, then held on for dear life — and a rare upset over a ranked team. Jasmine Robinson scored 17 points and the Crimson Tide held off a big rally for a 77-75 victory over the faltering Wildcats on Thursday night, Alabama’s first win against a Top 25 team in more than nine years. "We were just playing hard," Robinson said. "I think that was the whole key because we wanted to win so bad. "We didn’t want to lose again because we were up the whole game. I think it was us coming together and playing hard."
"Me and Nkemdiche met for the first time not too long ago and he's cool," Foster told 247Sports' Charles Power. "I could see myself playing with him. He's a real good defensive end and one I'd like to play with on the next level." "He was talking about Alabama like he wanted to commit right there. I was like 'do it.' I think he's going to commit to Alabama."
Alabama offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has declined an opportunity to interview for the same position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a source told al.com newspapers on Thursday. Stoutland was invited to visit with Tampa Bay, but decided he wanted to stay at Alabama according to the source.
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