Alabama Gymnastics prevails over Missouri despite injuriesBy Ben Stansell | 01/26/2018 10:47pm
On a night filled with adversity, Alabama could have easily allowed Missouri to steal a victory in front of its home crowd in Coleman Coliseum. Instead, the Crimson Tide were able to record a 195.850 – 194.525 win, capitalizing on big performances in unexpected places.
Freshman Lexi Graber, who missed last week’s meet against LSU recovering from injury, was not slotted to compete on uneven bars. That was until sophomore Shea Mahoney, who was supposed to compete on vault and floor as well, rolled her ankle before the meet was even underway.
“What do we say? We love adversity,” Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. “Well, we started with some adversity at the very beginning.”
If it was any other team, or any other season, Mahoney’s injury would have spelled trouble for the squad relying on her in multiple events. However, Alabama has learned to embrace adversity, having powered through unusual circumstances and untimely injuries throughout its first three meets.
When called on, Graber stepped up to the plate. Even though this was her first time on the uneven bars in live competition, Graber earned a 9.9, electrifying the crowd. She hit a homerun.
“That was so exciting,” Graber said. “I was originally going to be exhibition, so I was just getting ready for that, preparing myself. Then Shea was unable to do it and I had her back. I just went out there.”
Mahoney was not the only member of Alabama’s squad noticeably absent from the meet against Missouri. Sophomore Wynter Childers, Alabama’s all-around competitor, was kept out of the meet by Duckworth to rest her knee, which was bothering her early in the week.
No matter, the Crimson Tide persevered; Albeit, not without some difficulties along the way.
Alabama established a lead over Missouri early, scoring a 48.975 on vault. Senior Nickie Guerrero led the way with 9.925. Her score, a season high, was the best of vault of the night by members of either team. The Crimson Tide maintained its lead during uneven bars thanks to Graber’s breakout performance and a 9.875 from junior Ari Guerra. Junior Angelina Giancroce competed for the first time this season on uneven bars.
On balance beam, an event that has been a calling card for Alabama the past two meets, adversity reappeared. The Crimson Tide’s first two gymnasts fell off, resulting in uncharacteristically low scores to start the event.
“I’m not even sure the last time we started with two falls on balance beam,” Duckworth said.
The Crimson Tide did not bat an eye lash, much less blink. Junior Abby Armbrecht righted the ship with a 9.800, followed by a 9.825 from Graber. Winston built on the sudden momentum, notching a 9.9 that would be good enough to claim first in the event overall.
Like uneven bars, strong performances from unanticipated places marked Alabama’s floor routine. Sophomore Maddie Desch breathed life into Coleman with her highest floor routine score of the season, a 9.9. Armbrecht took advantage, capturing the momentum to deliver a well-executed 9.95. Not only did her highest score of the year to date secure her the top floor routine, it also gave her a chance to wear Alabama’s new “Diva Belt.”
“Anytime someone sticks a landing or does an amazing routine . . . you get the diva belt, which is what we call it,” Armbrecht said. “It’s just a reward for all your hard work.”
The idea for the belt originated from Alabama football’s notorious turnover belt, rewarded to the player who is responsible for securing the turnover.
Alabama finished floor with a team score of 49.125 and ended a rocky night on a high note.
“Hot mess. I would start with that, but there were some bright spots,” Duckworth said. “The cycle of success is you are tested, you fail, you learn, you grow, you retest. I truly feel like that was tonight.
"Everything we do every week is about moving forward," Duckworth said.