Welcome to the SEC, Missouri.
Competing against Alabama for the first time since it was announced that the Tigers would join the SEC next season, the No. 14 Tigers fell to the No. 4 Crimson Tide 197.175 – 195.325 in Coleman Coliseum.
While the meet was not officially an SEC meet, it was the Tigers’ first taste of SEC gymnastics before they will officially become a member next season.
“They’re a highly competitive team,” Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson said. “If you look right now, if you put Missouri in our conference right now, all eight teams are ranked in the top 25 in the country.”
The meet was also a tornado relief meet, in remembrance of the storms that swept through Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Joplin, Mo. this spring. Both schools were affected by the storms and came together for a night of athletic competition, but also remembrance.
“We have two states that were devastated by this tornado,” Patterson said. “How do you use your athletic event and what you do in the community to help for a greater cause?”
“It meant a lot to us that we were coppering not only for Tuscaloosa, but for Joplin,” senior Geralen Stack-Eaton said. “We just wanted to go out there and have a fun time and do it for the people who were less fortunate than us and lost things in the tornado.”
Alabama started strong on the vault with a score of 49.325 led by junior Marissa Gutierrez. Gutierrez posted a 9.95, tying a career-best for her. Sophomore Diandra Milliner finished the rotation for Alabama with a 9.9.
The Tide seized control of the match on the uneven bars where it scored a 49.35. Senior Geralen Stack-Eaton led the way with a 9.9. Kaitlyn Clark and Ashley Sledge added a pair of 9.875s. The score of 49.35 was Alabama’s second-highest uneven bars score of the season.
It took a couple of clutch performances from Alabama on the balance beam to keep up its dominating performance. Gutierrez fell on her first rotation, posting a 9.1. But the next five Tide gymnasts hit their routines and the Tide was able to close the rotation with a score of 49.325, its third-highest beam score of the season.
It was a testament to the Tide’s depth as well as its ability to stay focused in the face of adversity.
“I really wasn’t worried,” Stack-Eaton said. “I was really confident in the rest of us because we practice this every day in practice.”
The Tide had to make a few last-minute adjustments to secure the victory on the floor exercise. Gutierrez was in the lineup to compete on the floor, but was held out because she didn’t warm up well. Freshman Brooke Parker competed in her place and scored a 9.75 in her second routine this season as an Alabama gymnast.
“It was good for her and it’s good for our team,” Patterson said. “Those are the things – when you have those people at 7, 8 and 9 that are pushing 1-6, that’s what makes you a better team.”
Geralen Stack-Eaton finished the rotation with a 9.9 to clinch the Tide win. She also won the all-around with a score of 39.55.