Tonight’s meet features nation’s top two all arounders

Jason Galloway

Even when the matchup can’t get any better, Alabama gymnastics head coach Sarah Patterson will be the first to say individual rankings don’t matter at this point in the season.

When the Crimson Tide takes on LSU in Baton Rouge, La., tonight, the nation’s top two gymnasts will take the floor. LSU senior Susan Jackson and Alabama senior Morgan Dennis are ranked first and second, respectively, for average all around score.

“A lot of people focus on the individuals,” Patterson said. “If you ask Morgan, I bet she doesn’t even know that’s she’s the No. 2 all arounder, because we really don’t need to focus on that.”

Although the team aspect of the meet is what the Tide focuses on, junior Kayla Hoffman said she sees the interesting side to this top-rated individual battle.

“It’s really exciting because we’ve seen both of them compete throughout the course of their careers,” Hoffman said. “I think it will be a great matchup and a great side note onto our team competition to see how that turns out.”

Dennis, who has been fighting through back spasms in the early part of the season, was not even scheduled to compete in the all around in last week’s victory at Penn State. Patterson had planned for Dennis to only participate in vault, beam and floor, but was thrust into the bars lineup at the last minute.

Patterson said she changed the lineup about six times on the day of last week’s meet, and that Alabama’s ability to still score high (196.6) is a testament to the team’s depth. Dennis ended up competing as the Tide’s only all arounder, and replacements give some gymnasts an important rest, especially ones trying to get rid of minor injuries.

“We’re hoping we can continue to build our depth,” Patterson said. “That’s going to be the key to our success. We’re not going to be able to use the same five kids in the all around like we did at Auburn in the first meet.”

Alabama maintains the nation’s top team ranking for the second week in a row, while LSU checks in at No. 12. The trip to Baton Rouge would not normally be as grueling as last week’s trek to Pennsylvania, but it may feel longer for Alabama. According to Hoffman, the team will ride a bus rather than fly this week.

Patterson said she doesn’t think the recent travel will affect her team.

“I don’t think this team is going to let down,” she said. “They thought we were going to let down when Arkansas came in the next week after beating Georgia, and I think we just improved. I think this is a mature team, and they understand the importance of each meet.”

Senior Kassi Price said it will be important for the Tide gymnasts to stay levelheaded and remember why they made the trip once they finally arrive.

“Traveling does kind of get long and tiring,” she said, “but we just have to go in there with our normal mindset and just go in and compete the way we know how.”

Hoffman looks at the travel from a different perspective.

“Even though we’re taking a long trip, we’re kind of excited for all the bonding time and fun games on the bus,” she said.

Tonight’s meet begins at 7 p.m. against LSU. Live stats and a radio feed will be available at gymtide.com.