‘Mama said there’d be days like this.’
From the outset the hype surrounded the two undefeated champions, Oklahoma the reigning national champion and LSU the powerhouse SEC champion. Florida and Alabama, along with UCLA and Utah were relegated to also-ran status. Alabama performed like one.
The Tide finished Super Six just as they finished the regular season in sixth place after a nightmarish night in St. Louis. The gymnasts knew going in the only way they could even realistically compete for a 7th title was to execute every routine perfectly—and have their opponents, primarily Oklahoma, LSU, and Florida make a number of mistakes. That was not to be.
Rotation One Bama Bombs on Bars…
Disaster struck early and often for Alabama. After three lovely uneven bars routines by McKenzie Brannan, Shea Mahoney, and Keely McNeer, who earned a career high 9.9 on her final bars performance, Amanda Jetter missed catching the high bar on her first release and went splat. Kiana Winston looked rattled and added an extra something to her routine that the judges noticed, and Katie Bailey the 2017 co-national champ on this apparatus overshot a handstand and had to do an extra swing. The scores…Brannan 9.825, Mahoney 9.825, McNeer 9.9, Jetter 9.325, Winston 9.585, and Bailey 9.75…The first rotation team total was 48.888. The team average score was only 9.7775. After the first rotation Alabama was in last place.
Florida beam 49.3
Utah floor 49.0625
UCLA vault 49.000
Alabama bars 48.888
Alabama moved to the balance beam already in the hole, not optimum. Meanwhile LSU and Oklahoma got underway with their first rotations. The Tide’s Wynter Childers opened up beam with a clean routine, although she was a tad tentative and failed to stick her landing, earning a 9.8125. Aja Sims had gorgeous execution but failed to stick her landing. She earned a 9.85 on her final routine for the Crimson Tide. Sad to think we won’t see her perform on beam again. Next up, another senior, Keely McNeer, who didn’t compete in the semi-final round after two poor outings at the SEC Championship and at the regional. She had two major bobbles right away. I was about to avert my eyes, when she fell. Her score was only 9.0375. And Bama wasn’t done bobbling about. Freshman Maddie Desch was next up, and the next down! Yes, you read right. Bama had a second fall on beam. Desch’s score was 9.2250, that now Alabama had to ‘keep.’
(Maybe the team was too focused on shooting a video dedicated to their new leotards…Yes they did that. It can be seen on rolltide.com. And yes the ‘leo,’ as gymnasts call it, is lovely, better actually than the performances so far.)
Junior KIana Winston gets extra points from me just for getting through her routine cleanly and holding it together for a 9.8375. Beam stalwart Nickie Guerrero closed out the horrid session on another high note, nailing her routine for a 9.9. You go girl! Alabama’s total for beam was even lower than bars: 48.6250. The Tide hadn’t broken 49.00 yet!
At this point Alabama was 6th out of 6, with an average score of just 9.7513. Oklahoma’s average first round score for comparison was 9.9175. During her turn with being interviewed Dana Duckworth wearing an odd off one shoulder black dress said she told her team, ’Refocus, reset, Gymnastics is what we do it’s not who we are.’ She still loves her girls. Well we do too, but still……
Rotation Three Alabama gets a Break to Regroup
Oklahoma goes to beam and shows how it is done, clean crisp sharp, lovely landings, including a 10.0 for Maggie Nichols. Even at this point a repeat looked likely for the Sooners. They did not miss a landing on their first two events. Their average score through two rotations a 9.9288. LSU on vault and Florida on floor were in a dogfight for second.
AL :-( 97.5125
Rotation Four Alabama goes to Floor Exercise, “Is, it safe?”
Senior Amanda Jetter, who fell on bars, got the opportunity to end her Crimson Tide career on a sweeter note. She competed first on floor and got a respectable 9.8. Wynter Childers looked extremely comfortable in her routine, playing to the crowd. It seems the pressure is officially off. Her score was a 9.825. Next up Ariana Guerra, who bounced out of bounds yesterday, landed a double back layout with no problem. Bama back on track with a 9.8375.
Katie Bailey’s final floor exercise was lovely for a 9.8625. Another senior, Aja Sims had the crowd going with her crazy robot dance routine and great tumbling. Although this wasn’t her best floor performance she earned a 9.875.
Junior Kiana Winston closed out with her exultant, exuberant routine with its sky high double back layout. Winston nailed it and earned loud cheers from the fans and a 9.925 from the judges. Alabama’s team total for floor 49.3250. (While Alabama was on floor, UCLA’s Catherine Peng Peng Lee was awarded a 10.0 on beam.)
After four rotations, the average scores (as opposed to totals which are off, because not all the teams have completed three routines):
Rotation Five Vault
This event was Alabama’s final rotation, and it went well. Wynter Childers opened scoring with 9.8250. Abby Armbrecht tallied a 9.85. Kiana Winston scored a 9.7750. Katie Bailey, finished her career on vault where she was national champion last year, with a clean vault and a 9.85. Nickie Guerrero scored a 9.85 as well. Keely McNeer closed out the Super Six and her career with the final vault. (I can’t imagine going into an event knowing it’s the last time you will don an Alabama ‘leo’ and compete for the Tide.) McNeer’s score a 9.7875. Alabama’s total for vault was a 49.1625, and the total for Super Six a 196.00. The Tide’s average score for the night was a 9.80. So the good news is the team got their average score up to 9.8! But Alabama finished the Super Six in sixth place. Utah finished fifth.
After five rotations, again, the average scores:
OK 9.9267 (still averaging above a 9.9. It was a simply amazing performance.)
An aside: As bad as Alabama feels about their night, think about LSU. This was supposed to be D-D Breaux’s best chance to win LSU’s first national championship EVER. And yet, far from challenging Oklahoma for the top spot, the Tigers found themselves in third place, behind the hated Florida Gators, with only one event left to salvage the meet and take second.
Oklahoma sealed the win early, but for LSU it came down to the final competitor to try and snatch second from Florida who ended its night with a perfect 10.0 on bars, by who else? Alex McMurtry. (She is one of many seniors in the SEC I will be glad to see graduate!) LSU finished with its best gymnast Ashleigh Gnat (another senior!) She needed a 9.925 on beam to get LSU into second place and she got a 9.95. It was actually an exciting finish, more so for Florida and LSU fans than others. Amazingly, perhaps fittingly, the order of finish was almost exactly as the teams were ranked at the end of the season. Only difference, UCLA, which has a strong night, switched places with Utah to finish in fourth.
OK 198.3875 the highest score ever in a Super Six
This was a hard competition to watch. Bama’s consistency bugaboos showed up in rare form.
Congrats to the team for making the Super Six, and to the seniors who enjoyed a great career with the Tide. Thanks for all your hard work and the great memories: Amanda Jetter, Aja Sims, Mackenzie Valentin, Keely McNeer, Mary Lillian Sanders, and Katie Bailey. For the rest of the team: onto 2018. RTR.