Gymnastics comes back after Friday loss, downs West Virginia

Gymnastics comes back after Friday loss, downs West Virginia

CW | Amy Sullivan

Alabama gymnastics coach Dana Duckworth didn’t hide her emotions during Sunday’s meet. She was all over the place, hugging the gymnasts and waving at the fans to get louder. She was excited, and rightfully so, as No. 4 Alabama defeated No. 24 West Virginia, 197.375 to 195.250.

“I kind of acted a little crazy as a fan [Sunday],” she said.

After junior Aja Sims nailed her balance beam routine, scoring a 9.950, Duckworth started flashing both her hands and chanting “ten” towards the crowd. She said the moment Sims stuck her landing, fans should have been out of their seat cheering.

After Alabama’s next performer, the same thing happened. Junior Katie Bailey also earned herself a career-high 9.950.

“So yeah, I went a little nuts because I was like those beam routines are 9.950-caliber beam routines,” Duckworth said.

Sims and Bailey weren’t the only two gymnasts to receive high balance beam scores either. Junior Keely McNeer scored a 9.900 just before Sims, and sophomore Nickie Guerrero anchored with a career-high 9.925.

Sophomore Mackenzie Brannan started off with a 9.825, then senior Lauren Beers was up. She was midway through her routine when she fell off the balance beam, marking the third time she’s done so this season. She got back up and scored a 9.300.

Alabama finished with a balance beam score of 49.550, tying its own previous nation-leading score along with the fifth-best score in Alabama history.

“It’s there, we’ve always had it the entire season, but this as well as every other event, it’s always just about putting it together,” Bailey said. “I think this meet we did a really good job, especially after a fall, of putting it back together and just remembering what we do in the gym every day.”

Earlier in the meet, Beers scored a 9.800 on the vault after stumbling off the landing platform. Then during her dismount on the uneven bars, she took a step forward, resulting in a 9.9.825.

“A true sign of a champion is being able to put that all behind you and move on,” Duckworth said. “Then she went and got a 9.950 on floor.”

Beers’ floor exercise score broke down into a 10 and a 9.90.

Duckworth said Beers is still figuring things out this season and earning a 10 from one judge, she needed that for her confidence. What her coach and teammates think Beers really needs to do is relax.

“She’s such a strong gymnast,” Sims said. “When she just lets it be, that’s when she does her best. We all knew that’s all she had to do, just have fun. So floor was where she just let it all out.”

Alabama scored a 49.325 on the floor exercise, a 49.225 on the uneven bars and a 49.275 on the vault where sophomore Kiana Winston set a career-best 9.900.

The Crimson Tide was able to pull together all four events. Its 197.375 was its fourth 197-plus score this season, one of which came from Friday’s meet.

Although the final scores were similar, Sunday’s outcome was the opposite of Friday’s, when Alabama lost by 0.025 to Auburn, putting a halt to Alabama’s 117-meet streak.

“This team is a very different team from last year in which we’re very good at moving to the next moment,” Aja Sims said. “We say live in the moment and working, fighting for every second. No matter what happened on Friday, we were focusing on tonight and then how we make each other 0.025 better.”

On Sunday, Alabama had a gymnast place first in each event.

Winston took first on the vault with a 9.900, tying West Virginia’s Zaakira Muhammad. Brannan and junior Amanda Jetter, both with a 9.875, took the uneven bars. Sims and Bailey ended up first on the balance beam with their 9.950s. Beers’ 9.950 on the floor exercise single handedly stole first.

Beers was the only gymnast to compete all-around, scoring a 38.875.

This wasn’t the first two-meet weekend either. Alabama had one at the start of its season with Missouri and, like this past weekend, Auburn.

“I don’t know if we really love it, but it ended up that way,” Duckworth said. “But you know, there was a plan, bigger than we realized, and it worked out wonderful to be able to come back and bounce right back.”

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