Gymnastics team takes down defending national champion Gators

Gymnastics team takes down defending national champion Gators

In a dead heat through three rotations against defending national champion Florida, the Alabama gymnastics team faced exactly the kind of situation it will at nationals – one with no room for error against the most talented team in the country.

And the No. 4 Crimson Tide showed exactly the kind of resolve that coach Sarah Patterson is looking for, downing the No. 3 Gators 197.675 to 197.4 in front of a rowdy Coleman Coliseum, even eliciting a “Rammer Jammer” from the Million Dollar Band when it was all over.

It was the highest score on the season for Alabama by nearly two tenths, as it opened up a three-game homestand to end the regular season.

“If we continue to go down the same path that we have gone, this team can compete with anyone,” Patterson said.

Competing without senior Sarah DeMeo, who missed her second straight meet, Alabama set a season-high on balance beam with a 49.4 and was consistent throughout the rest of the meet, scoring no less than 49.4 on any single rotation.

(See also "DeMeo strengthens routine mentality")

The biggest scare of the meet came when senior Diandra Milliner suffered a fall on uneven bars on the third routine of the rotation. But the Crimson Tide finished strong behind her, with senior Kim Jacob going 9.925, freshman Amanda Jetter turning in a 9.925 of her own and senior Kaitlyn Clark capping it with a 9.9 to total a 49.425 on bars.

And Milliner bounced back the second half of the meet. She led off the beam with a 9.875 and finished the meet on floor exercise with a 9.95 that brought the crowd to its feet and sealed the win.

“It was really exciting,” Milliner said. “I love hearing the crowd cheering that loud. There’s no other place like Coleman Coliseum.”

(See also "Patterson applauds student turnout")

Coming into the meet, Florida averaged the highest score of any team in the country, but a low road score to start the season was bringing down its Regional Qualifying Score, which determines the rankings at this point in the season.

For Patterson, though, Friday was a chance to see Alabama compete against Florida, who she said is the most talented team in the country, in the same environment, with the same judges, which can vary from venue to venue.

And the Crimson Tide showed it can hold its own with the country’s best.

“They learned that even through adversity and challenges and shifting our lineup around, that they can compete with anyone in the country,” Patterson said. “And that’s what I was hoping that head-to-head competition would do tonight.

“It’s not about someone scoring in one range and our score in another. We were on the floor, with the same judges, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted our team to see that we’re as good as everyone else. We just continue down that path. I believed it, but I wanted them to see it for themselves.”

Alabama was tied with Florida after the first two rotations, too.

It started with 49.425s on vault and uneven bars, respectively. Alabama was led by sophomore Lauren Beers’ 9.925.

Despite a fall from Jacob to finish the balance beam, Alabama turned in a season-high 49.4, while the Gators scored identically on floor, before struggling on beam to lose the meet.

The win stretches Alabama’s home winning streak to 43 in a row, a five-year total that dates back to the middle of the 2009 season.

The Crimson Tide will host Stanford in Coleman Coliseum next Friday at 7:30 p.m. before finishing the regular season at home against Auburn.

(See also "Alabama ties season-best score for 108th win against Auburn")

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