Road to the SEC ChampionshipBy Marc Torrence | 03/21/2012 11:09pm
The Alabama gymnastics team had a successful regular season by any measure. The team finished with an 11-1 record and is ranked No. 3 in the country, according to its Regional Qualifying Score.
But the regular season is over, and the real season is about to begin with the Southeastern Conference Championships this weekend.
Alabama will travel to Duluth, Ga., to compete alongside the other six teams in the conference – all of which are ranked in the top-20.
“The conference competition is, to me, as hard, if not more difficult – it's really the same as the Super Six,” head coach Sarah Patterson said. “You can look at what you see at the SEC Championship and know that the intensity and the level of competition mirrors the Super Six.”
Unlike in football, an undefeated season is not necessary to compete for a national championship. The rankings are determined by looking at a team’s scores over the course of a season, rather than wins and losses.
In the postseason, it’s all about who wins and who loses, so the competition becomes even more intense.
“Regular season is awesome, it's fun to have the different rivalry meets,” senior Ashley Priess said. “But this is the most exciting part of the year. Here, it's postseason, we're here to bring our best game every single week, and this team is fired up and ready to do that.”
Intense competition will not be a new experience for the Tide. All but three of the Tide’s 12 regular-season opponents are currently ranked in the top 20.
“If you look at our schedule, if you take a break or a fall, and you put it in there,” Patterson said, “it can make or break a team. When you walk in there, you can look at most of the teams and say they're all competitive to win.”
Since the pressure was not on the Tide to win every meet, it was able to shuffle the lineup most nights to try to find a rotation that works best. It also allowed Patterson to be able to rest certain gymnasts dealing with lingering injuries.
“During the regular season, we had a lot of ups and downs and obstacles and people coming in and out of the lineup,” Priess said. “We really had a lot of different experiences that have helped equip us for the postseason. Because our team is so flexible as far as different situations, we're able to adjust so easily to anything thrown our way.”
Alabama went undefeated in SEC competition this season, so the other six teams will also be out for revenge this weekend. The Florida Gators finished the season ranked higher than the Tide in the final rankings, despite falling to the Tide in Coleman Coliseum.
“It's a good confidence booster because we have beaten everybody in the SEC, but at the same time, we do know that we have a target on our backs and that we have to be on point because everybody else will be too,” senior Geralen Stack-Eaton said. “We've learned to just have more confidence in ourselves and just to not second-guess ourselves.”