For a moment, it looked as if Alabama’s perfect record in Power of Pink meets was in jeopardy. Heading into the last rotation of the night, the Crimson Tide led the Razorbacks by less than half a point. With low scores from the first two performers on floor, Alabama’s lead was trimmed further.
Then, battling a low fever, Maddie Desch nailed a 9.95 routine. Not only did her performance bring Coleman to its feet, it helped kick start a run of stellar floor routines that would power No. 10 Alabama to a 197 – 196.35 victory over No. 8 Arkansas.
“It was also just, like that reminder that, we are competing for something bigger than us and just always, you know, competing for that allowed me to have that energy, just, competing for something bigger than myself,” Desch said.
Even though claiming victory over Arkansas was a considerable achievement for Alabama, the meet’s importance extended much farther than gymnastics.
The night’s bigger purpose was to raise breast cancer awareness and celebrate those who have conquered the disease that impacts so many. From the outside in, Coleman was cloaked in pink. Sarah Patterson – Alabama’s former coach who first championed the idea – was present to hand out individual awards after the meet.
As is customary in every Power of Pink meet, the Alabama gymnasts each went through introductions holding arms with a breast cancer survivor. Well, not every gymnast. Nickie Guerrero and her mother Barbara, a breast cancer survivor, decided to dance instead.
“That was surreal. I anticipated being shaky, like I was with my grandma and aunt,” Guerrero said. “But, I did get a little emotional, wasn’t expecting it. But, uh, she’s a rock, so she teaches me how to be a rock. I told her, I was like, ‘How about we dance on the A?’ and she was like ‘okay,’ so I was like ‘alright’ and that was just, it was just really cool to do that with her…”
After sharing that touching moment with her mom, Guerrero transformed back into her typical fiery, confident self; Guerrero led the way for Alabama on vault with a 9.85. Besides Guerrero’s performance, Alabama got off to a slow start on its first event, netting a less-than-desirable team score of 48.95.
Senior Ari Guerra competed on vault for the first time in four years, according to Alabama coach Dana Duckworth. Duckworth expects Guerra’s vault to improve with time and provide a needed boost to the team’s overall vault score.
The Crimson Tide left its rocky start in the dust with its second best uneven bar performance of the season – a 49.325. The lead was back in their hands. Spearheading the way for Alabama on bars was seniors Kiana Winston and Mackenzie Brannan, both of whom scored 9.9s.
Moving onto balance beam, Alabama executed another strong group performance. Once again, Guerrero proved why she is known as the “rock” for the Crimson Tide, scoring a 9.925. Despite another rotation total of 49.325, Alabama’s lead was a mere .375 points heading into floor exercise.
That narrow lead was cut even further after the Crimson Tide’s two leading floor performers faltered. Used to adversity at this point in the season, Alabama did not even blink. Once Desch hit her career-best 9.95, the rest was history.
“When we had the first two floor routines not do what they typically should, uh, it was kind of like ‘alright, four up, four count, let’s go have fun,” Duckworth said. “And the ladies delivered. Maddie started it off, Abby followed behind it, Kiana did the best routine she’s done this season and then Nickie is so fun to watch.”
Behind Desch and Winston’s 9.95s, Alabama posted its highest floor score of the season: 49.4.
“Overall, I think we accomplished our goals for tonight, and we got the W, which is always nice, and we hit that 197 mark,” Duckworth said. “So just think about what we can do if we can get a couple of those other scores where they need to be.”
Alabama improved to 3-2 on the season.