Tide crushes Arkansas to stay perfect on season

Sarah DeMeo scored a 9.775 on the beam Friday night at the Pink Meet against Arkansas. / CW | Katie Bennett

Sarah DeMeo scored a 9.775 on the beam Friday night at the Pink Meet against Arkansas. / CW | Katie Bennett

Still undefeated in the Southeastern Conference. Still undefeated on the season. Still undefeated in pink.

The No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the No. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks 197.65 – 196.125 in front of a sold out and pinked-out Coleman Coliseum to keep its unbeaten record alive. Alabama improved to 8-0 overall – 5-0 in the SEC – while Arkansas dropped to 9-4 (3-3). Alabama is also now 17-0 in Power of Pink meets.

“It was just a night of celebration,” head coach Sarah Patterson said. “There was great athletic competition, but when you watch those 18 [breast cancer survivors] that walked out [before the meet], that was just so humbling, such a special moment. You really can’t ask for a better night than this.”

With campus glowing pink all week in support of breast cancer awareness, the energy in Coleman Coliseum was present from the start, and the Tide rode it to their second-highest team score of the season.

“Seeing all the pink just set the stage for the night,” senior Ashley Priess said. “As we walked out with our survivors on our arm, it was so inspiring to see them and what they’ve endured.”

It took an on-the-fly adjustment on the floor routine to seal the win for the Tide. Junior Ashley Sledge – a staple in the Tide’s lineup this season – was set to compete third on the floor but didn’t feel 100 percent during warm-ups. Patterson made the decision to hold Sledge out for precautionary reasons.

Her replacement? Freshman Lora Leigh Frost. And she came up big when it mattered most.

Frost posted a career-high score of 9.925 on the routine, sparking one the loudest cheers of the night from the Alabama faithful. Stack-Eaton and Priess erased all thoughts of a late meltdown with scores of 9.95 to seal the win for Alabama.

“I knew I had to do it for the team,” Frost said. “I didn’t want to let the team down. I knew on the last pass I had to breathe one more extra second. They say practice makes perfect, so that’s what I’ve been doing. When I hit the last pass, it seemed like [Coleman Coliseum] erupted.”

“It just shows how strong of a gymnast she is. She didn’t even let it faze her. She didn’t even miss a beat, filled in for us, and she did absolutely wonderful,” Stack-Eaton said about Frost’s performance.

Alabama started the meet off strong on the vault once again, posting a 49.525 led by scores of 9.95 from Stack-Eaton and 9.925 from sophomore Diandra Milliner. It was the Tide’s third-highest vault score of the season, behind the two meets in which an Alabama gymnast scored a 10.0 on vault.

Led by scores of 9.9 from Stack-Eaton and Priess, the Tide continued its strong performance on the uneven bars. Alabama scored a 49.3 on the rotation, its highest total of the season.

The Tide extended its lead even farther on the balance beam, posting a 49.225. Priess led Alabama to its second-highest balance beam total of the season with a score of 9.925.

The meet will be rebroadcasted on ESPNU on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

The Tide will look to continue its streak of dominance on the road at LSU next Friday.

“It will help our team a lot, and their confidence,” Patterson said. “Now we’ve got to move forward and compete on the road, because it will be a tough environment in LSU.”