Alabama hosts annual Power of Pink Meet against ArkansasBy Ben Stansell | 02/01/2018 1:42am
In a turbulent season dominated by untimely injuries and unexpected circumstances, senior Nickie Guerrero has been a rock. Her consistency in attitude and performance has proven to be a linchpin for Alabama’s success, and it is admired by coaches and emulated by teammates.
Based on her celebratory fist pumps and steady demeanor during meets, you would assume Guerrero is the type of person who has never had a bad day. You would be wrong.
Even rocks can be shaken.
During last year’s Power of Pink meet, a night Alabama gymnastics dedicates to promoting breast cancer awareness, Guerrero stood on the circle A with her aunt and grandmother, both of whom are survivors. It was a special moment shared by the three women; a celebration of their victory over a disease that affects one in eight women in the U.S.
“It was really emotional,” Guerrero said. “I didn’t expect to be that emotional. I’m not a super emotional person when it comes to touchy-feely type things, but I was shaking and they were shaking, which made me shake more.”
Not long after that night, still in the midst of her junior season, Guerrero would receive the disheartening news that her family’s fight against breast cancer was not over yet.
Her mother, Barbara, had been diagnosed. It was a tremor that shook Guerrero, but failed to crack her resilient resolve.
“Nickie is an incredibly strong individual and it didn’t faze her one bit,” senior Mackenzie Brannan said.
Fortunately, Guerrero’s mom caught her cancer soon after it developed. Since starting treatment early is vital to defeating breast cancer, this gave her a tremendous leg up.
Another advantage possessed by Guerrero’s mom was the same quality she passed down to her daughter: fortitude.
“The one thing that I have been so impressed with is Barbara’s mindset towards her cancer,” Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. “She literally has been an incredible rock and I think that’s been really great for Nickie to see. Really Nickie’s personality is that anyway.”
On Friday night, when Guerrero stands on the circle A to be announced to thousands of cheering fans, she will be joined by her mother – a survivor. Even though she has the experience of having walked out with family members before, Guerrero expects it to be an emotionally charged moment.
“It’s going to be a lot different, especially with my mom,” Guerrero said. “It’s really cool because last year I got to walk out my aunt and grandma after they were breast cancer survivors and now I get to walk out my mom so it will be really cool, get the whole trifecta up there.”
This will be Alabama’s 14th annual Power of Pink meet, but it may be the first time that pink will be joined by another emblematic color. As they have all season long, the Crimson Tide gymnasts will continue to honor Brannan’s brother – who is currently fighting stage four Hepatosplenic T-cell Lymphoma – by sporting green ribbons in their hair.
Brannan has dedicated this season to her brother; Therefore, competing for something bigger than herself is familiar to her. The only difference in the Power of Pink for Brannan is that she will have an additional cause fueling her performance.
“This meet is not for us,” Brannan said. “We’re doing it for something bigger than us and that’s the cool part. I think that’s when we do our best, when we’re focused on something greater than us and the inspiration they provide.”
Alabama’s gymnasts were given a prime example of how meaningful the Power of Pink meet is earlier this week when they visited patients at the DCH Cancer Center.
As the Crimson Tide team was preparing to leave the center, a woman who had been asleep woke up, recognized that they were the Alabama gymnastics team and began to cry.
Noticing the profound emotional impact they had on her, the team surrounded her and listened as she told them about her fight with breast cancer.
“We talked to one lady, who, she’s thirty and I think she has stage three breast cancer,” junior Abby Armbrecht said. “We were just hearing her story and just listening to her put everything in perspective. She’s fighting so hard and you know, we hope that next year she’ll be able to walk out on that A with us.”
Between Guerrero’s mom, Brannan’s brother and the countless breast cancer survivors and fighters who will be at or watching the meet, Alabama’s gymnasts will have a lot to compete for.
“I just want to see them realize, in their performance, that this weekend particularly, they represent something so much bigger than themselves,” Duckworth said. “There is a great deal of power behind the power of pink initiative.”
There is a reason the Crimson Tide have been perfect in pink.