Home meet against UNC begins important month of March for Alabama gymnasticsBy Ben Stansell | 03/02/2018 9:54am
Coach Dana Duckworth loves slogans, phrases, mottos – any expression she can use as a rallying cry to motivate her team. One slogan she employs frequently is “you don’t win championships in January.”
Although January is long gone, the essence of the phrase still applies. Duckworth wants her team’s best performances to come when it matters most; for Alabama to peak in March and April, when post-season play begins.
“If we can continue the course that we are on, add the upgrades, with confidence, I think that peaking at the end is what it’s all about,” Duckworth said. “We’ve always said you don’t win championships in January.”
March will begin with a home meet against North Carolina.
As Alabama gains momentum heading into the home stretch of its season, it appears Duckworth’s intended message is coming to fruition.
The Crimson Tide notched a season high 197.3 against Auburn last Friday, its second time posting a season high in its past three meets. Alabama recorded its best balance beam score of the year, a 49.4, against the Tigers.
While Alabama’s performance against Auburn was its highest mark of the season, it was still not the “it” performance that Alabama’s gymnasts believe they have the capability to produce.
“Once we put it all together,” junior Ari Guerra said “It’s just going to be the best moment ever.”
Alabama has seemingly been on the precipice of putting it all together during its last few meets. Against Kentucky, the meet prior to Auburn, Alabama was poised for an “it” performance after posting season high scores on vault and uneven bars. Although the Crimson Tide made errors on beam and floor exercise, the improvement that the team has made this season was apparent.
“I was so excited for the team that they had a great performance, even with some room to grow, and that we did it at Auburn,” Duckworth said. “I think that it just says a lot about the growth that this team has had.”
A key piece in Alabama’s continuous improvement has been senior Nickie Guerrero. Guerrero was honored as the SEC’s specialist of the week for her performance against Auburn. An anchor for Alabama on vault, beam and floor, Guerrero scored a 9.95, 9.9 and 9.925 in those events against the Tigers, leading the Alabama to its season high.
“Any coach will tell you, of any sport, that you always ask yourself ‘okay, if you had one second left in the game who do you want to have that ball? Who do you want to have the ball?’” Duckworth said. “I think that Nickie is at a place in her life right now where she wants the ball and she wants to carry the ball. Whether she makes it or not, she’s going to give you everything she has.”
Guerrero and the Crimson Tide will look to continue to trending in the right direction when it hosts North Carolina in Coleman Coliseum on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. CT. North Carolina is led by 36-year coach Derek Galvin, who Duckworth considers a friend and mentor.
In the early stages of her coaching career, Duckworth worked simultaneously as a volunteer coach for Galvin’s Tar Heels and Alabama, choreographing floor routines.
The two programs last met in 2012, when Alabama topped North Carolina 197.625 – 194.075.