Alabama-Georgia gymnastics rivalry starts new eraBy Kayla Montgomery | 02/18/2015 11:22pm
After earning its highest score of the season last meet, the Alabama gymnastics team will travel to Athens to take on the Bulldogs on Friday. CW | Hanna Curlette
The University of Alabama versus The University of Georgia pitted two rival coaches – Alabama’s former coach Sarah Patterson and UGA’s Suzanne Yoculan – and two top-tier teams against each other year in and year out. Since 2000, the teams have a combined total of eight national championship titles.
When the No. 5 Alabama gymnastics team travels to Athens, Georgia, on Friday to compete against its storied rival, it will mark a new era in the competition. Yoculan retired in 2009 with the UGA program now being led by Danna Durante, and the Crimson Tide is now under the leadership of Dana Duckworth.
Though things have changed around the program, Duckworth said little has changed in the cross-state rivalry. Both teams, she said, will continue to push each other to new heights in their quest to maintain the legacy that has been laid.
“What’s similar is that it’s two great teams who bring the best out in each other year after year,” Duckworth said. “That’s what the rivalry is about. I am confident that we will have a great meet; I am confident that they will have a great meet. When two teams have that rivalry and that pursuit toward carrying on that kind of history, there’s something electric about that. I joke that it was Sarah versus Suzanne, now it’s Danna versus Dana – different, yet similar.”
The Crimson Tide will travel to Georgia after posting its top score of the season in last Friday’s Power of Pink meet. The team also posted season-best scores on the uneven bars and balance beam, and tied its season-best score on the floor exercise.
“Take what we did last week, add a couple more vault ladings and take it on the road,” Duckworth said. “Do that and we’ll take a huge set in an away setting. Let’s get a great away score. That’s what we want to focus on doing our job and let the scores take care of themselves.”
After last week’s performance, sophomore Katie Bailey said the team will be focusing on the more minor details in this week’s competition.
“We’re going to work on the little things, just staying in bounds, pointed toes and little things we can work on,” she said. “I think we’re really excited and we’re going to do great.”
In addition to the minor changes, senior Kaitlyn Clark said the team is still working on its depth and lineups. The team is where it should be at this point in the season, she said, which makes its potential to continue improving all the more exciting.
“We’re still changing people in and out of lineups and getting that depth,” she said. “Even though we did so much better in sticks, we still only had two stuck vaults out of six, and we had some people who always stick beam not stick. We can always clean up our leaps and our floor landings and upgrade our floor passes as well. Really there’s so much more room for improvement and that’s what is so exciting, because we’re doing so well and we have so much more to grow.”