Coleman Coliseum to house regional gymnastics meet

The two-time defending NCAA Champion Alabama gymnastics team is the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional Championships, which will be held in Coleman Coliseum Saturday at 6 p.m.

The Crimson Tide will host No. 2 seed Utah, No. 3 seed Denver, Kent State, BYU and Iowa State. The top 18 teams in the nation by regional qualifying score are seeded into the six regional sites. The remaining three teams are slotted into regionals by proximity and national ranking.

“This is the most important meet of the year and certainly the most pressure-packed for all the teams,” head coach Sarah Patterson said. “For us to have a chance to defend our title, we have to do a great job at this meet.”

The team last competed in the Southeastern Conference championships, where it placed second behind the Florida Gators. The Tide was without senior Ashley Sledge due to a sore back. Nonetheless, Alabama posted a season-best score 197.900, showing the depth of the team. Now, after a week of rest, Sledge said she’s ready for regionals.

“I took the entire week off just with my back and getting it ready and I felt great. I’m ready to compete,” Sledge said. “I have a fire in me and so does the entire team, to be strong for these last two meets.”

Senior Marissa Gutierrez returned to action after spraining her ankle a month ago at Arkansas, scoring a 9.9 to secure the Tide’s second-place finish. With both seniors back in the lineup, the team is focused on continuing its hot performances.

“That’s huge for us,” Kayla Williams said. “We got our highest score of the season at SECs and it was one of the greatest meets, but we also did it without Sledge. She’s a huge part of this team and a huge contributor, just her leadership and her scores. So to have her back is going to be really great for us. And the week off, I’m sure, helped Marissa. So I’m sure she’ll be stronger and ready to go.”

This will mark the 13th time Alabama has hosted a regional, with the last time coming in 2011 when the Tide won the regional and led the nation in regional attendance. Alabama has won an NCAA-best 27 regional titles and advanced to the NCAA Championships 30 years in a row.

Alabama will start the regional on the vault and will then move to a bye before advancing to the uneven bars and balance beam. After the balance beam, the Tide moves to its second bye before finishing the meet off on the floor exercise.

Unlike the regular season, there is no free admission for UA students, but the Medalist Club, the gymnastics team’s booster organization, purchased 2,000 tickets for students to get in free with a valid ACT card.

“I didn’t want them to have to pay to get in, so their $5 ticket is paid for by the Medalist Club,” Patterson said.

The top two teams from each regional will move on to the NCAA Championships, which will be held April 19-21 in Los Angeles, Calif.

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