What the heck was that? In their final dual meet of the season, largely seen as a mere tune-up for next week’s SEC Championship, Alabama gymnasts made four major mistakes and had to come from behind to beat #27 Iowa State in Tuscaloosa Friday night 197.10-196.60. The miscues were of the nature that any one of them could be enough to derail the Tide’s chances next Saturday in Jacksonville.
Senior Night in Coleman started well with a solid 49.5 on vault paced by 9.9s from Kiana Winston and Maddie Desch and a 9.95 from Nickie Guerrero. Iowa State gymnasts managed to stick the landings on the uneven bars, which combined with generous scores, allowed the Cyclones finish the first rotation with a 49.2.
Disaster #1 Uneven Bars:
To say the uneven bars have been the Tide’s kryptonite this season is an understatement and that Iowa State was actually better last night says it all. Aja Sims was first up and scored a dreadful 9.275 after a poor catch and release maneuver left the senior dangling from the top bar like a broken marionette for several awkward seconds. Two gymnasts later freshman Wynter Childers had a major flub that earned only a 9.575, a score Bama could not drop. Alabama’s bars total of 49.025 was its lowest of the season and the Tide’s lead was only .075.
It got worse.
Disaster #2 Balance Beam:
The Tide is ranked fourth nationally on beam because its gymnasts perform difficult routines and stay on the beam. Not so last night as the very first competitor Abby Armbrecht tumbled off, scoring 9.125, as did typically surefooted senior Katie Bailey. Her 9.3 had to be counted and Bama finished with another season low 48.925. On a positive note Kiana Winston scored a 9.975 and Nickie Guerrero a 9.925, but the Cyclones took a surprising 147.6 to 147.450 lead.
Third year coach Dana Duckworth says she encouraged the team by telling them they could still win with a strong performance on floor and the gymnasts came through. Five scored 9.9 or better, including a 9.95 for Maddie Desch and then generous marks of 9.95 and 9.975 for seniors Katie Bailey and Aja Sims and, indeed, the Tide pulled ahead for the win.
No margin for error:
To repeat, if Alabama has any such meltdowns next week they could find themselves finishing fifth or sixth. The competition will be that fierce. Lets hope Duckworth and the ladies can work out the kinks and get back on track.
The SEC Championships will be televised on the SEC Network Saturday, March 18th. The meet consists of two groupings, the four lower ranked teams Kentucky, Missouri, Auburn, and Arkansas get underway at 1pm CDT. The top four LSU, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia can be seen beginning at 5pm CDT.