Gymnastics team to take mat at home

Gymnastics team to take mat at home

UA Athletics

01_07_11 WGY vs. Penn State Kim Jacob Photo by Amelia J. Brackin

Marquavius Burnett

No matter the sport, the level of competition reaches new heights when Alabama and LSU square off.

Like everything in the Southeast, it starts with football, but the gymnastics teams have been known to mix it up.

The Crimson Tide and Tigers will battle twice, with the first matchup coming this Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum.

The two teams are separated by one spot in the initial gymnastics rankings, LSU at No. 5 and Alabama at No. 6. While gymnastics is based on scores and not head-to-head competition, there’s added motivation for this clash.

“I think they try really hard in every one, but I do feel like they’ll know the importance of it,” head coach Sarah Patterson said of the rivalry. “They know that it will come down to the last person, the last two people on balance beam and floor exercise. That’s the way it’s going to come down if you want to win. I think they like that kind of competition… When they know that LSU has one of the top four or five scores in the country – really their score, not their average, was one of the top three in the country – they know that. They know they have to be on their game to do well.”

Ria Domier said facing LSU twice wouldn’t be a problem.

“I mean, we beat them three or four times last year, so we’re hoping to do the same, I guess,” she said.

Jacob’s hard work pays dividends

Extra practice time on her routines and more time in the weight room are just a couple of things gymnast Kim Jacob put herself through to get ready for her junior season.

She’s not necessarily reaching for perfection every time she puts in the extra hours, just improvement.

Jacob went all-around at times during her freshman year, but was used in certain events during her sophomore season. The mentality of a gymnast is to be prepared for every event because that’s the way they’re brought up in club gymnastics. While most athletes would be bothered by not competing in every event, Jacob took it in stride.

“In college, it’s more about the team, which is a very different mindset,” Jacob said. “Really, you just have to take whatever’s best for the team and be happy for your teammates and support them in whatever they’re doing on that day.”

Patterson and teammates described her as the most selfless person on the team. Patterson even said she’s had to tell Jacob to stop practicing at times or turn off the lights in the gym.

“There is not a harder working, more disciplined athlete on our team than Kim,” Patterson said. “That’s in all areas … She’s always willing to do whatever she has to do to get better.”

Individually, Jacob is ranked 15th in the all-around, after posting a 39.275 at Missouri. Jacob and Sarah DeMeo are both fifth on the balance beam after tying for first place at Missouri with matching scores of 9.9. Jacob is also ranked 17th on the floor exercise after scoring a 9.875 to win the event at Missouri.

“I was definitely happy with my performance,” Jacob said. “I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be doing the all-around. Just to get out there and hit all four events and just start off the season great was a great start for me.”

That’s Jacob in a nutshell, forever the team player. Her scores only project to get better as she settles into the season. Jacobs is a silent leader, a quiet assassin. But on the apparatus, her performances are loud and boisterous, demanding attention.

“Kim is definitely one of everybody’s favorites on the team,” Domier said. “She works so hard, and never complains. She is an inspiration for all of us. We all want to be like Kim, to have her work ethic and her attitude.”

Domier and the rest of the team backed up that praise before the season by awarding Jacob with one of the highest team honors.

“We don’t elect captains,” Patterson said. “We have captains each week, but we don’t elect our captains until the end of the season. On our leadership team, she received the most votes of any athlete that I’ve ever had on a leadership group. Maybe it was only her vote she was missing. Everybody voted. I think that says a lot about her as a person and how it didn’t matter whether they were a freshman or a senior; everybody viewed her in that role.”