Alabama Gymnastics in to Super Six
Turning in its most solid performance of the season, Alabama finished third in an extremely competitively 6 team semi-final and qualified for Saturday night’s Super Six final. Overall, of the twelve teams vying for the final six spots, Alabama had the fourth highest point total of the day.
Second Semi-Final Results
Alabama fans should be extremely proud of the this team. The ladies left absolutely nothing on the floor. They finished the meet with a 197.600. That is their third highest point total of the season but, considering the 197.825 against Florida and the 197.700 versus Georgia came in dual meets with just two judges compared to six judges in St. Louis—in addition to a stricter setting, this was without question the Tide’s best and gutsiest performance so far this year.
First Rotation Alabama Opens on Floor
The Tide had only two miscues the entire night, but got started early when the very first competitor in the first event Ari Guerra bounced out of bounds on her initial tumbling pass and just like that Alabama began the meet with a scary low 9.7. But the team bounced back immediately. Wynter Childers earned a 9.85, Katie Bailey a 9.875, Maddie Desch tumbled to a 9.85, Aja Sims a 9.875, and Kiana Winston scored a near perfect 9.937, for a team total of 49.3875. That means on floor the team averaged a 9.8775, which is pretty darned good for mere mortals. Florida, thanks to some generous judges, averaged a 9.9025 on vault and from the outset this semi-final had a definite vibe. It was going to be a battle for first between LSU and Florida. Alabama would be competing with Georgia, Michigan, and Nebraska for the all important third slot and that’s exactly how it played out.
Second Rotation Alabama Moves to Vault
Poor vaulting in Morgantown very nearly eliminated Alabama at the regional level, so this was a nerve racking event for fans. But with everything on the line, the gymnasts came through in a big way. Wynter Childers opened up with a 9.85, followed by Abby Armbrecht’s 9.8, and Kiana Winston’s 9.875. Katie Bailey earned a 9.8875, Nickie Guerrero a 9.8625, and Keely McNeer closed out the event with a 9.8875. Alabama earned a 49.3625, much better than the 48.8 two weeks ago. The team average on vault was a respectable 9.875.
While the Tide was on vault, LSU rotated in and opened on floor where the Tigers earned a 49.7125. That score was another stark reminder that Duckworth and company just had to stay focused on controlling what they could…staying clean, sticking their landings, and let the LSUs of the world just do their thing.
Third Rotation Alabama Sits Out with a Two Event Total of 98.75
Alabama and Nebraska sat out and watched LSU follow up its 49.7125 on floor with a 49.5625 on vault. Florida scored a 49.4250 on bars. About this point it was the Nebraska coach’s turn for a debrief and Dan Kendig actually complained about the judges’ scores TWICE. I don’t disagree that LSU and Florida were getting some markups at the other teams’ expense, case in point: Alabama’s Katie Bailey. Even the announcers, Kathy Johnson and Bart Connor, were sure Bailey’s flawless vault would earn the max of 9.95. But somehow she only got a 9.8875. But to be honest, overall LSU and Florida were just better, so get over it.
Fourth Rotation Alabama Heads to the Uneven Bars
Here again, Alabama went to an apparatus that had been extremely problematic throughout the 2017 season and, undaunted, every Tide gymnast hit her routine. McKenzie Brannan opened up with a 9.85, Shea Mahoney had a 9.825, Keely McNeer a 9.9, Amanda Jetter a 9.8875, and Kiana Winston a 9.9. Then Katie Bailey closed out bars with a score that was tied for the top bars score of the night a 9.95! Alabama as a team tallied a 49.4875, its highest uneven bars score of the year. After completing three events Alabama was a close second with a 148.2375 to Florida’s 148.325. LSU and Michigan were an event behind, but Michigan, who beat the Tide in regionals, had two gymnasts fall on balance beam and thus already been virtually eliminated. As had Georgia which had a disastrous night from the get-go. All good, and it seemed the Tide would cruise into the finals, but wait! l’il ole Nebraska came to play! The Cornhuskers three event total of 147.96 was only .275 behind Alabama.
Fifth Rotation Alabama Finishes its Night on the Beam
While many teams fear the balance beam, Alabama has a history of being strong on beam, even winning national championships when closing out on beam. So the Tide had to feel good about their position heading into their final event. True to form Alabama began with Wynter Childers who earned a 9.8875, Aja Sims followed that with a 9.9250. Just wow! At least one of the six judges gave Sims a 10.0. She had her normal phenomenal routine, landed her double back tuck dismount perfectly, and I relaxed. “We’ve got this.” I almost poured a celebratory glass of wine. Too soon! Abby Armbrecht was in the midst of a solid performance when she fell off the beam. Her score a 9.2375 that actually put Alabama behind Nebraska for fourth place. Talk about ramping up the tension. Nebraska was racking up decent scores on vault and, so, it was left to the final three Tide competitors of the night to pull it out. Freshman Maddie Desch came through with a 9.8. All American Kiana Winston had a spectacular routine that garnered a 9.8875. It was up to the final gymnast Nickie Guerrero to close it out—-just who you want in that moment! And she did her job. Guerrero earned a 9.8625, to put the Tide back on top of Nebraska to stay.
Sixth Rotation The Heavy Weights Slug it Out
I have to say, as much as I love excellent gymnastics, by this point I was so over LSU and Florida. Kinda of like yadda, yadda, yadda. Flawless routine by one team, followed by a flawless routine by the other, or so it seemed. The eyes can only take in so much perfection in a day. In the end LSU had the highest score of the semi and of the day with a 198.275, Florida the second highest 197.8125. Oklahoma won early semi-final what was its lowest point total of the season, 197.725. UCLA had a 197.5 for second place, Utah finished third with a 197.05. So the Super Six is set and Alabama made it in.
What to Expect
For starters, we can expect Oklahoma and LSU to be better than everyone else. Florida might slip in, but I think this is LSU’s year. As the announcers pointed out several times during semi-finals, Alabama has been a mystery team this year, with good days and bad days. Friday was a really good day and honestly I don’t know how much higher a score Alabama can earn than they did Friday night. But it is gymnastics and all it takes is a couple of mistakes here, a fall there… and it’s anybody’s title. We nearly saw that today. One fall on beam was almost enough to send the Tide packing. But the team came through. Let’s hope they have one more big night in them! RTR!!!!!
Alabama will begin on bars in the first rotation, and perform on beam in the second rotation before getting its first bye. It comes back and moves to floor exercise before finishing on vault during the fifth rotation. The sixth and final rotation, with Alabama and Utah on byes, will feature Oklahoma on vault, Florida on bars, LSU on beam and UCLA on floor.
Competition starts at 8pm CDT on ESPNU. Again there are isolated cameras on each apparatus, so you can follow Alabama on WatchESPN as the team moves from event to event.