Despite youth, Alabama seeks to live up to tradition when facing Missouri

With nine SEC titles and six NCAA Championship titles, there’s a standard that follows the Alabama gymnastics team.

The Crimson Tide finished as No. 1 first in 1988 and most recently in 2012, but after losing four seniors last year, the current batch of gymnasts lack an NCAA Championship title and are eager to earn their own and put Alabama back on top.

Senior Carley Sims said knowing that helps the team be better – it gives it an “all or nothing” mentality.

For the 2016 season, Alabama returned five All-Americans: seniors Sims and Lauren Beers, juniors Katie Bailey and Keely McNeer and sophomore Mackenzie Brannan. It also gained six new freshmen: Abby Armbrecht, Avery Rickett, Jenna Bresette, Angelina Giancroce, Ari Guerra and Amanda Huang.

Even as a freshman, Giancroce is aware of the standard that comes with being an Alabama gymnast. She sees it when looking back on previous records, but it’s something that goes unspoken of normally.

“You want to live up to the legacy that people before you have created and you want to be able to create new traditions, create new memories and championships,” she said. “We don’t really focus on it too much, but it’s there.”

Fans of the Alabama gymnastics team also know about the standard, and Duckworth hopes to remind them of it this Friday during the team’s home and SEC opener against Missouri, especially after Sunday’s loss to UCLA.

Duckworth said she doesn’t want the fans to get discouraged, and just because Alabama started off its season with a loss doesn’t mean it isn’t a great team.

“The wins and losses records isn’t as important to the overall rankings for regionals and nationals as our score,” Duckworth said. “So that’s why I want fans to come – to see great gymnastics.”

Because of this, Friday is all about Alabama gymnastics.

Duckworth isn’t concerned about knowing what kind of team Missouri is, who Missouri will have competing or where the team is currently ranked (No. 14).

“We really are focusing on Alabama – that’s for our fans,” she said.

Despite Sunday’s loss, Giancroce said the team is feeling pretty good not only about its upcoming meet but also about the season as a whole.

Sims and Beers are the only seniors on the team and have stepped up into two different leadership roles. Sims said while she is more outgoing and loud, Beers is calmer and a mom-like figure.

“I think us being different plays off very well for our dynamics and especially for the team,” she said. “It works out very well in our leadership styles.”

When they were freshmen, it was just Sims and Beers. Now, there are six freshmen on the team, making up one-third of the team.

“It really didn’t seem like that much of a hard transition for them because they mesh so well,” Sims said.

The team culture is there, regardless of the age ratio of the team.

Both Sims and Giancroce are excited to compete at home. As someone who’s competed under the Coleman Coliseum lights, Sims is excited to be back at home, while Giancroce is looking forward to seeing all the fans and experiencing that environment for the first time.

“We know we have a lot of things to improve on and stuff, but for the most part, we’re feeling pretty confident,” Griancroce said. “We’re all kind of ready to get the season going.”

The Crimson Tide (0-1) will compete against the Missouri Tigers (2-0) on Friday at 6 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum, and the meet will be aired on the SEC Network. 

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