Gymnastics ties season-high score in vault during senior night

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Gymnastics ties season-high score in vault during senior night

Stephen Alvarez

Stephen Alvarez

Stephen Alvarez

Ben Stansell

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Crimson and white confetti rained down on Alabama’s gymnasts as they embraced each other in an emotional group hug on the middle of the floor apparatus.

Although the Crimson Tide had just notched a season best 49.575 on floor, shattering its previous season high of 49.4, the celebratory confetti swirled around them for a different reason. It was senior night, and a tribute video highlighting the careers of Alabama’s four soon-to-be graduates had just played on the big screen.

Immediately before that, seniors Kiana Winston and Nickie Guerrero had ended the final regular season home meet of their careers with a bang. The last two gymnasts to compete on floor, Winston posted an impressive 9.925 while Guerrero scored a career-best 9.95.

That was after Alabama’s first four competitors recorded 9.9s, a fact that Winston did not realize when she took the floor.

“I was not aware that there were four 9.9s, but I could just feel the energy of my team rising as the performers were going and knowing that we were hitting floor,” Winston said.

Even though Alabama’s floor routine was not enough to lift it past top-ranked Oklahoma, the Crimson Tide falling to the Sooners 197.925-197.15, it was still a “very good senior night,” according to Winston.

With No. 1 ranked Oklahoma visiting Coleman, coach Dana Duckworth knew that her team was facing a unique challenge from the beginning.

“I think, for us, we really wanted to see them have to fight for it and to just not give it to them,” Duckworth said.  

Fight Alabama did.

The Crimson Tide kicked the meet off by tying its season-best score of 49.3 on vault. Freshman Lexi Graber led the way, sticking a routine that elicited “ten, ten, ten” chants from her teammates. One judge agreed, but the other did not, giving her a 9.9. Overall her score averaged out to be a career-best 9.95.

“That was by far Lexi Graber’s best competitive vault she has done,” Duckworth said.

On bars, Alabama continued to build on its momentum, posting a 49.275 behind a 9.925 from Winston. Graber and Kylie Dickson contributed two 9.85s as well.

Once Alabama entered the third rotation, moving to balance beam, the pressure of playing the top-ranked team in the country began to take effect.

“There were some times were I feel like we tried a little too hard,” Duckworth said. “We got a little tight, missing some handstands, missing some landings, just the basics that we can do well.”

Those errors appeared in several of Alabama’s beam performances. After two 9.55s in the middle of the lineup, Winston and Guerrero stepped up, posting a 9.875 and a 9.9. The two seniors’ routines gave Alabama a jolt of momentum, setting the stage for an electrifying floor performance that would end with Guerrero’s 9.95.

When Guerrero finished, her reaction was not the fierce celebration that she normally concludes her routines with. Instead, the emotions of her last regular season home meet were apparent on her face.

“After on floor, I just realized that I had done one of my best floor routines and didn’t have the most amazing night that I’ve ever had,” Guerrero said. “But just got to be proud of what I’ve done.”

Alabama will compete next in the SEC Championships on March 24 in St. Louis, Missouri.