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Alabama Gymnastics Seeking Its Seventh National Title

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Head Coach Dana Duckworth won her first national title as a Tide gymnast in 1991: She eyes the first as a coach, and the program's seventh overall, this weekend.

Sr. Kaitlyn Clark, with Juniors Aja Sims and Lauren Beers, look to lead a young, talented Tide squad to its seventh National Title
Sr. Kaitlyn Clark, with Juniors Aja Sims and Lauren Beers, look to lead a young, talented Tide squad to its seventh National Title
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama gymnastics started in 1975, but it took on a different form in 1978 when former football coach and athletic director Paul Bryant hired Sarah Patterson.

Patterson achieved success in 1983, capturing an NCAA Regional title. She guided Alabama to its first Southeastern Conference title and national championship in 1988. Patterson would market the program for 37 years. She brought Alabama gymnastics national attention and built a reputation for excellence. Patterson's career ended with an overall record of 384-88-2. She accomplished eight conference championships, six national titles and 29 NCAA Regional titles, prior to stepping down (health issues).

Dana Duckworth, 44, stands on the cusp of securing her first national championship as head coach of Alabama gymnastics. She accepted the position on July 15, 2014, but Duckworth has been a part of the program since 1989. She played under Patterson from 1989-93, and was a leader on Alabama's 1991 national title team. Duckworth won her first national title as a player in 1991. She eyes first as a coach, and the program's seventh overall Sunday.

Duckworth finished her career as a four-time All-American from 1990-93. She was a two-time SEC and national balance beam champion in 1992-93. Duckworth became a full-time assistant under Patterson in 2008. She assisted the program to national championships in 2002, 2011 and 2012, as well as conference titles in 2003, 2009 and 2011. Duckworth navigated Alabama gymnastics to a 10-3 record this season.

The Forth Worth Convention Center (Forth Worth, Texas) will be packed Friday for the 2015 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships. Alabama earned its ticket by securing an SEC championship with a score of 196.00. The Crimson Tide followed its efforts with a solid performance in the NCAA Auburn Regionals, posting a total score of 197.575. The victory gave Alabama its 114th straight win over Auburn and its 30th NCAA Regional title in program history.

Alabama had three individuals in 2011 that made an impact as freshmen: Kim Jacob, Sara DeMeo and Diandra Milliner. All three helped the Crimson Tide earn back-to-back national championships in 2011-12. This year's team has formed its own trio with Carley Sims, Lauren Beers and Kaitlyn Clark.

Sims, a junior, has excelled on floor exercises this season. She's recorded a score of 9.9 in seven events, including a 9.95 in the SEC championship. Her results helped Alabama secure its ninth conference title. Sims's 9.95 landed her with All-SEC honors for the first time in her career.

Beers, a junior, has turned into Alabama's top all-around competitor. She finished second in the SEC championship, tallying an average of 39.419. Beers won the all-around in the NCAA Auburn Regional with a score of 39.575. She was solid on the floor (9.9) and balance beam (9.925), winning both evens. Beers, who has 11 all-around events under her belt, is ranked third nationally as a competitor.

Clark, a senior, dominated the uneven bars and balance beam last season. She competed in all 14 games, and collected five wins. The 2014 SEC Championships witnessed her record a career-high 9.975 on bars. She scored a perfect 10.0 on the balance beam in Alabama's 2014 meeting against Auburn. Clark's 10.0 at the time was the first on the beam by the Crimson Tide since 2003.

She finished fourth on vault in the 2015 SEC Championships with an average score of 9.889. Clark placed second on balance beam with a 9.812. Her score of 9.925 on beam at the NCAA Auburn Regional landed her an individual award.

Kayla Williams, Mackenzie Brannon, Keely McNeer and Aja Sims all add experience and depth to Alabama's rotation. Williams, a senior, was a member of Alabama's 2012 national championship team as a freshman. She placed in the top 15 overall in the vault in the SEC championships with a 9.882.

Brannon, a freshman, was a pleasant surprise on floor this season. She came center stage in the NCAA Auburn Regional, winning on floor with a 9.925. McNeer, a sophomore, placed 10th overall on the balance beam in the SEC championships with a 9.848.

Semifinals on Friday will be available via ncaa.com. Saturday's Super 6 event, team finalists, will be carried live on ESPN 3 at 7:00 E.T. Sunday at 3:00 ET, athletes will compete for individual national titles at 3:00 ET, also on ESPN 3. Tape delay of the Super 6 and Individuals will be shown back to back beginning at 7 ET on Wednesday, April 29th on ESPNU.