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Low-energy ‘Bama bounced from NCAA Gymnastics Nationals

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The Tide finished fifth out of six teams in the day’s first semifinals.

Looking for answers on the horizon

(C) Gawrifort via DeviantArt

33: That’s the record number of Super Six appearances the Alabama Crimson Tide Gymnastics program has made at the NCAA National Champions since 1983.

The complete list of times the Tide have not advanced could literally be counted on one hand, with a few fingers to spare: 1983, 1997, 2007.

Add today to that list — 2018.

Alabama, which had come into the Nationals on a really solid two-month tear, saw its bid for another Super Six appearance derailed by a combination of low energy, an uncharacteristically poor balance beam showing, and then the typical low scoring across the board you see in Nationals.

Alabama was consistent on the afternoon, but in this case that’s probably not the best thing — the Tide failed to record a single 9.9 on the day; it didn’t even come close, with the highest score being Abby Armbrecht’s 8.635 on the Floor and Wynter Childers’ 8.685 on the uneven bars.

It’s hard to pinpoint an area where the Tide stood out: it wasn’t that Alabama had just one bad performance (though it did); it’s there’s wasn’t an outstanding one either, as you’d hope from a squad competing for a national title. The Crimson Tide regressed on the vault, and had a solid-if-unspectacular uneven bars performance. In a depressingly-familiar scene, the floor exercise continues to haunt the Alabama, even though it vastly improved throughout the season. Throw that in with perhaps its poorest showing on the beam all season, a rotation where Alabama finished next to last, and that was enough to send the ladies packing up for Tuscaloosa.

The result may be disappointing, but it’s really how the Tide went out that was a bit more disappointing. This wasn’t a case of the yips or other teams being better (though some certainly were, especially UCLA). It was that the most intangible commodities in a subjectively scored sport — fire, energy, spark, tempo — simply were not there today. All of the little things that Alabama seemed to have corrected by mid-February came spilling out on the floor in St. Louis. This looked like January Alabama, not the red-hot March and April Alabama we very much believed had a decent shot at a Top 3 finish this weekend.

With the season’s end, so ends the career of two fan favorites: Nickie Guerrero and Kiana Winston. Also graduating are McKenzie Brannan and Jennie Loeb. There is a lot of quality youth returning next year though, Lexi Graber among them. Abby Armbrecht and Wynter Childers will almost certainly be the veteran leaders of the squad.

Still, the Tide will absolutely need to replace two of its best all-around athletes and finally find a fix to the floor performances that have plagued Alabama for the last several years. The latter is especially necessary; The Tide will be just be treading water against a sea of better choreographed teams until it does.

But, hey, at least Georgia didn’t advance either?