Gymnastics starts postseason with SEC Championships on Saturday

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Shelby Akin

Terrin Waack

The No. 4 University of Alabama gymnastics team heads to Little Rock, Arkansas for the 2016 SEC Championships. As the two-time defending conference champion, Alabama looks to defend its title on Saturday, but it will also go into the meet with nine conference titles overall to its name, four of which are from the last seven years.

Alabama will compete in the evening session against No. 2 Florida, No. 3 LSU and No. 6 Auburn. Unlike during the regular season when Alabama would either start on the vault if home or the uneven bars if on the road, it will be starting Saturday’s meet on the balance beam.

“Oh, it’s not going to be any different than it would be anywhere because you still have to do it,” Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. “Everyone has four events. We love starting on the beam.”

No. 8 Georgia, No. 13 Arkansas, No. 20 Missouri and No. 22 Kentucky will also be in attendance, competing in the afternoon session.

The Crimson Tide is coming off a two-week break, having not competed since March 3 at LSU where it lost with a season-low score of 196.225. Its season-high score is a 197.550, posted against Georgia on Feb. 26.

“We’re going to focus on the 95 percent we’ve done well, not the five percent we didn’t,” Duckworth said.

Although it had time to take off, Duckworth said the team didn’t really get away from the gym and practicing its gymnastics. However, with it being Alabama’s Spring Break, Duckworth said it did help that the gymnasts didn’t have to worry about schoolwork as much as usual.

“It was a nice week off to be able to kind of download, upload and be ready for this weekend,” Duckworth said.

While in the gym this week, Alabama tried to do as much role-playing as it could. Having an idea of what Saturday holds, Duckworth said the team created a similar environment during practice with extra cheering, blasting music and distractions everywhere. She said the team practiced with a great deal of focus and attention to detail because that will be key going into postseason.

Looking back, Alabama had a rather consistent regular season, posting 40 team scores above 49 to make up 91 percent of its season. It holds season-best scores of a 49.4 on the vault, a 49.600 on the uneven bars, which tied for third highest in Alabama history, a 49.550 on the balance beam, which tied for the fifth highest in Alabama history, and a 49.500 on the floor exercise.

Bringing it all together, the Crimson Tide is one of the eight teams nationally this season to post a score over 197.5, which is did so against Florida with a 197.525 and against Georgia with a 197.550.

“You just kind of take it week by week,” Duckworth said. “Along the way, the team learned a lot of lessons, and they’ve really grown. People have really matured from a competitive perspective and from a personal perspective. So, are we proud we had a really consistent season? Absolutely.”

The Crimson Tide gymnasts have totaled 146 scores of 9.84 or higher and 59 of 9.9 or higher. Senior Lauren Beers is the only gymnast on the team who has posted a perfect 10, which she scored against Georgia on the vault.

Duckworth has a lineup in mind for Saturday, and as of Wednesday, Jenna Bresette, who is slated for the vault, will be the only Alabama freshman making her postseason debut. Regardless of the lineup, Duckworth is still confident that if a gymnast is called upon, she will be prepared.

“This is the most exciting time of the year,” Duckworth said. “All the eight months of preparation coming down to the postseason is what it’s all about.”