Welcome to the Show.
The signature Alabama Gymnastics pyrotechnics and light show introduction signaled the beginning of a new era for the prestigious program. A crowd of 12,123 fans packed the Coleman Coliseum for the #4 Alabama Gymnastics home opener versus #21 Arizona. The evening would be Dana Duckworth's first as a head coach after spending 19 seasons as either an athlete or assistant coach with the team. It was also the first time in 36 years that a coach other than Sarah Patterson would coach the team on the floor.
The retirement of Sarah and David Patterson in July left the Tide Gymnastics faithful to wonder about the future of their beloved team. Within hours, former Patterson gymnast Dana Duckworth was named head coach of the Tide. Herself a two-time national balance beam champion, Duckworth is no stranger to the competition floor. She is joined by longtime associate head coach Bryan Raschilla and new assistant Bill Lorenz, a recent Ohio State coaching transplant. 2014 NCAA All-Around Champion Kim Jacob joins the staff as a first year student coach.
The 2015 edition of the Alabama Gymnastics team is led by four talented returning seniors. Kayla Williams, who sat out last season with an injury, Kaitlyn Clark, Hunter Dennis, and Lora Leigh Frost.
Alabama started off solid on Vault, with Clark pulling in a 9.95. Williams nailed her vault to score a 9.85. After one rotation, the Tide held the lead.
The opening night jitters began to set in for the younger members of the team on the second rotation, the uneven bars. Two falls brought the team score down, but junior Lauren Beers and sophomore Aja Sims were able to pull strong scores of 9.85 and 9.90, respectively.
The third rotation brought the Tide to the treacherous balance beam. Sophomore Aja Sims posted, 9.90 the top score for the tide. The team suffered another fall near the end of the rotation, but Kayla Williams finished things off nicely with a 9.80.
The Tide would finish the evening on the floor exercise, and bounced back in a big way from the earlier mishaps. There were solid performances from the entire lineup, anchored by senior Lora Leigh Frost, who scored a 9.90 to close out the meet.
After all four rotations, the final score was Alabama - 196.225, Arizona - 194.375. Sophomore Katie Bailey won the all-around.
The Duckworth Era began with a victory in front of students, fans, and the Patterson family, who were in the stands to lend their support. There were clearly the opening night jitters and mistakes, but the first meet of the season can only be taken as a learning experience to build on. The Tide have an absolutely loaded schedule, including co-national champions Florida and Oklahoma, No. 3 LSU, and No. 5 Georgia on the road in Athens.
The next home meet for the Alabama Gymnastics squad is Friday, January 23rd when they host the reigning NCAA Champion Florida Gators. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth and can be purchased at rolltide.com or by calling 348-BAMA.