Gymnastics hosts defending national co-champion FloridaBy Kayla Montgomery | 01/23/2015 10:13pm
The gymnastics team will face Florida, defending national champions, at home on Friday. CW File
Filling its place is the competition between the Crimson Tide and the defending national champion, Florida. Combined, the two teams have taken home the last four national championships, with Florida tying Oklahoma for the title last year.
Friday night, the rivalry continues as the Alabama gymnastics team takes the floor against the Gators at 6:30 in Coleman Coliseum. Entering the meet, the Crimson Tide is ranked No. 1 on the floor exercise and No. 2 on the vault.
Coach Dana Duckworth said although there is significance in facing the defending champions, it is paramount that the team stays focused on what it needs to do to have its best possible showing this weekend.
“It’s not that it’s an added amount of pressure, it’s an added amount of opportunity,” she said. “I know that once we won two back-to-back national championships, there was a big ole target on Alabama’s back and everyone wanted to beat us. I think that goes for anybody that’s been on top and has the opportunity to compete against the team that’s on top.”
Last week, the Crimson Tide fell to Arkansas on the road, despite holding a lead going into the final rotation of the night. Three athletes fell on the beam, a meltdown Duckworth said was somewhat unexplainable.
“Last week was three amazing events, and everything else was mental from that point forward,” she said. “We’ve done nothing but pressure this week, put them in great mental state to get the bugs out. I didn’t expect them to be perfect, but we were very disappointed in that balance beam performance and it’s unlike anything we have done all fall in preparation.”
Now, she said, it’s time for the team to move on.
“You have a choice to overthink it, or just move forward, and we’re moving forward,” Duckworth said. “We’re a great beam team, and we will be a great beam team, and I expect to see excellence this weekend.”
The team is excited to get back to Coleman this weekend, and sophomore Aja Sims said she’s looking to see the team return to the floor and trust in the training it has had throughout the fall, especially as it faces a top rival.
“I definitely think we’re getting more of a rivalry now between Florida now than Georgia, and I just love it,” Sims said. “I love the change up and I’m just excited.”
For freshman Mackenzie Brannan, she said returning home to compete before fans only adds to the excitement to take the floor in Friday’s military appreciation meet.
“We create our own team energy whether we’re at home or we’re away, but the fans just add to that energy,” Brannan said.