It still stings. The setting, the SEC Championship. Sarah Patterson's Crimson Tide Gymnastics Team was preforming well and looking well on route to challenging for a repeat of their 2011 title. Then came the balance beam. Not only did Bama's line-up have a poor showing, but steadfast seniors, Geralen Stack-Eaton and Ashley Priess had uncharacteristic errors that ended up costing the night and handing the Florida Gators the 2012 SEC Championship.
Fast forward less than a month, in the same arena (the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.) Alabama and Florida will once again take the floor with nothing less than the National Championship at stake. Alabama's Gymnastic pedigree is unquestioned; five national titles, seven SEC titles, countless All Americans and crown-jewel status in the schools' athletic department, success is the norm. Florida on the other hand has emerged from competitive to the favorite, reigning in Calipari/Kentucky-esque recruiting classes for the past three years. Last year they stormed through the season and faded in the stretch as Alabama claimed their most recent National Championship.
This year Florida comes into Duluth as even more overwhelming favorites. For Alabama, as a great athlete once said, it's not so much revenge as it is restoring order. Alabama will look to their super seniors to not falter and the team that is one girl short of the line-up that won it all last year, to put on the performance they are capable of. Alabama walloped Florida early in the season at home and have hit a slump. The rock bottom was hit in the SEC title meet and thankfully at the Regional Championships, their final score went up, with any hope Bama is on the up swing and have two more chances to reach contender shape.
On Friday, 12 teams will enter the arena floor and only six will leave to play on Saturday. They will be the Super Six and Alabama has been in that number for nearly as long as the format has existed. For #1 Florida, pre-season #1 UCLA and Defending #1 Alabama, bowing out tomorrow would be unacceptable.
On another note, it is worth noting that Alabama Gymnast, Rachel Terry won the Elite 89 Award for Gymnastics, an award given to the highest GPA in the each NCAA sponsored sport. As in, she's the top academic student athlete in D1 Gymnastics. Roll Tide
Alabama Gymnastics: Rachel Terry Receives Second NCAA Elite 89 Award (via BamaGymnastics)