Tide earns highest score of season

Seven members of the Alabama gymnastics team stood outside Ridgecrest South dormitory for an hour and a half early Friday morning. The fire alarm had just sounded, and nearly half the team’s sleep was interrupted the night before its meet with No. 15 Boise State.

“I didn’t get back to sleep till five,” freshman Sarah DeMeo said.

But the Crimson Tide didn’t look tired against the Broncos. Although Alabama had to count a fall on beam, the Tide still posted a season-high score by nearly a point Friday night against Boise State in front of 13,636 fans at Coleman Coliseum.

Even though the student section for gymnastics only holds 1,200 seats, 2,506 students showed up to support the Tide. The number of students was the most in recent memory, and perhaps the most ever, according to the UA athletic department.

Alabama did not disappoint its fans, as its 196.325 was highlighted by 49.35 on the floor exercise, and half of the Tide’s 24 routines were performed by freshmen.

“We could have been half a point higher,” head coach Sarah Patterson said. “I think this team has the potential to score higher, and if you look at our lineup, we still have a lot of people with great scoring potential that aren’t in there all the time.”

Two Alabama gymnasts had a chance to showcase their talent in competition for the first time Friday night and both landed impressive routines. Sophomore Becca Alexin scored a 9.85 on bars, and freshman Hannah Toussaint scored a 9.875 on the floor exercise.

After building a 0.65-point lead after two rotations, the Tide ran into a bit of trouble on beam. Alabama’s second and fourth competitors on the event – Ashley Sledge and Kayla Hoffman – fell, putting an intense amount of pressure on DeMeo and junior Geralen Stack-Eaton to land their routines.

“[DeMeo’s] a freshman, there were some falls in front of her, and I think she felt like the weight of the world was on her shoulders,” Patterson said. “I said, ‘You can only do your beam routine.’ She’s a natural beam worker, and I just wanted her to feel confident.”

DeMeo did not let her coach down, landing her routine and scoring a 9.825.

Stack-Eaton’s score may have been even more gratifying. The junior fell on bars and beam last week against Arkansas, and she followed DeMeo with a near-perfect 9.9 to save the Tide from getting into an even bigger bind. Stack-Eaton scored a 9.85 on vault and a 9.875 on bars against Boise State.

“It was definitely a confidence booster,” she said. “To make the routine and now to look forward from that, I’m really excited about it.”

Alabama finished the night with a season-high 49.35 on the floor exercise to pull away from the Broncos and win 196.325-195.

“When we had to face some challenges today, people stepped up,” Patterson said. “We weren’t perfect, but we’re getting better.”

Sophomore Marissa Gutierrez did not compete Friday because of a hip injury. Patterson said her status going forward is unknown.

Alabama (3-0) will travel to Fort Worth, Texas, next weekend to compete in a multi-team meet with LSU, Nebraska and Missouri.

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