The No. 4 Alabama gymnastics team will welcome the No. 14 Tigers to Coleman Coliseum this weekend, and while it’s not officially an SEC meet, it will mark the first time the Tide and Tigers have squared off in any sport since the addition was announced.
“I know they’re really excited to come down and experience the magic of Coleman Coliseum,” junior Ashley Sledge said. “I’m sure they’re going to come down here ready to do their jobs as much as we want to do ours.”
While the Tigers were added to the SEC with football and men’s basketball in mind, Missouri brings in a strong team on the gymnastics front – adding to the already impressive list of gymnastics teams in the conference.
“It gives us another strong team,” head coach Sarah Patterson said. “It just makes our conference stronger.”
Sledge is excited about the Tigers joining the conference. Columbia, Mo. is about two-and-a-half hours from her hometown of Fairfield Heights, Ill. She also knows many of the Tiger gymnasts and has talked to them about competing in the SEC.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I really like a lot of the Mizzou girls, and hopefully, we’ll be able to compete at Mizzou because I live closer to there than here. My family would be able to come to that meet, of course.”
Tide, Tigers unite for tornado relief
For the second home meet in a row, the Tide will be competing in more than just a gymnastics competition.
Friday’s meet will be a tornado relief meet in memory of the lives and homes lost during last spring’s deadly storms. On April 27, an EF4 tornado hit Tuscaloosa, and just a few weeks later, an EF5 tornado struck Joplin, Mo., just four hours from Missouri’s campus.
“How often do you have two tornadoes that hit around two campuses?” Sledge asked. “It’ll be really good that we’re all working for a really close cause to our hearts.”
Alabama sophomore Ria Domier, along with many other UA athletes, worked with Convoy of Hope to help begin the rebuilding process immediately after the storms. She says the meet will be a reminder of how far both communities have come, as well as the work that remains to be done.
“This meet should be seen as a celebration of how far we’ve come since then,” Domier said. “A celebration of how our community banded together and helped out those in need. And also, just to bring more awareness to the fact that things aren’t perfect right now.”
ReadBAMARead, a foundation started by Alabama assistant coach Dana Duckworth, will receive a check for over $12,000 prior to the start of the meet. The charity was started to replace books lost in the April 27 tornadoes. Tuscaloosa Toyota partnered with the foundation to donate $200 for each 9.8 scored by a Tide gymnast during the team’s first three home meets.
“While it’s all about gymnastics and putting on a great show and welcoming them to the SEC, you can always use athletics for a greater good,” Patterson said. “That’s what this is all about.”