Junior Nickie Guerrero cannot contain herself when she pulls off a big routine. As one of the team’s loudest members, she embraces the rush of emotion.
She only has one way to showcase this: a fist pump.
“She pumps that arm,” said head coach Dana Duckworth. “Her shoulder is always sore the next day.”
Guerrero’s signature fist pump is a reflection of her personality. When No. 6 Alabama takes on No. 17 Auburn on Friday, she will feed off of the energy of the crowd. She has been one of Alabama’s loudest leaders all season. Ask anyone on the team, and they will say she loves to get her teammates fired up before meets and routines.
“When she does a good routine [in practice], she’ll either clap or get excited,” Duckworth said. “I love that animation and I love that passion. That is something you don’t teach. That comes from within somebody.”
Guerrero, like most gymnasts, has learned to trust her body and training throughout her career. Overcoming the wear and tear of a gymnastics season can be tough. Now that she has nearly three years under her belt, she only worries that her emotion may get her injured.
Sometimes, she wakes up feeling sore because of her animated gestures. With her shoulder taking quite the beating, Guerrero said she may move to a different form of celebration.
“I need to stop. It’s really bad,” she said. “I’m just going to hit my chest more often, instead of throwing it out.”
Guerrero was not always the stand out leader that she is now. As she has progressed through her career, she’s learned when to step up and help the team.
“As a freshman, I was kind of quiet, but most freshman are,” Guerrero said. “As a junior now, I have a more upperclassman role. I know there are certain things that need to be said sometimes and it’s not fun a lot, but it needs to be said.”
Channeling this energy and leadership has been a big part of her success so far. This season, Guerrero ranks fourth in the country on the balance beam. She has an average score of 9.896 and has posted a score of 9.95 on the beam three times this season.
Even before she came to Alabama, Duckworth knew Guerrero could be a special competitor on the event.
“She did so many skills on beam; you were just like, ‘oh my god,’ ” Duckworth said. “She just kept going. I love to see that.”
The team tosses around the phrase “trust your training,” but Guerrero truly embraces it. Before each event, she looks at her teammates and can tell if their nerves are getting to them. She does all she can to calm her teammates down.
“I go up to a lot of [the underclassman] before the go and tell them, ‘hey, you do this in practice every day and you do it well. We all are behind you trusting you. Just go and do you,’ ” Guerrero said.
Guerrero started at Alabama in 2014. She and fellow junior Kiana Winston grew together side by side. Winston is more the quiet type. She leads by example. She said the team is lucky to have a loud personality like Guerrero to match her quiet attitude.
“She’s more of the energetic one that will get people pumped up,” Winston said. “She really helped me bring out my personality more. Being with her is more fun. She brought out the fun in me.”
Guerrero and Winston formed a bond early on in their careers. Now, the two are Alabama’s two most consistent gymnasts. Guerrero competes on three of the four events while Winston goes all-around for the team.
Guerrero said she and Winston have formed a very close bond in their time together.
“We’re super close. We call each other the beam team,” Guerrero said. “We always hype each other up before we go. It’s definitely helped this season and I just can’t imagine what it would be like without her.”
Alabama faces Auburn at 7:30 p.m. CT in Coleman Coliseum. It is the beginning of back-to-back home meets for the Crimson Tide. Guerrero is excited to compete in front of the home fans for two weeks in a row.
“We have the next three out of four at home,” Guerrero said. “That is really comforting to know. The traveling and craziness of it is not there.”