Alabama to honor alumnae on Friday

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Jason Galloway

The No. 2 Alabama gymnastics team’s meet against No. 6 Florida Friday night will serve as a reminder of the program’s rich tradition, as more than 50 former Alabama gymnasts, coaches and staff spanning all four of the Crimson Tide’s national title teams will be in attendance for alumni week.

“More than anything, it just gives everyone a chance to come back and reminisce and really appreciate the family we had outside of our biological families,” said Marie Robbins, who won a national championship as a sophomore at Alabama in 1988 and is now working as an associate athletics director at the University. “I enjoy watching my former teammates [and other alumnae] come back and enjoy it.”

Andree Pickens, another gymnastics alumna who currently works in the program as a compliance coordinator, said the annual alumni week is more than just a meet-and-greet.

“It’s a really big deal,” said Pickens, a two-time individual national champion who was a senior on Alabama’s 2002 national title team. “You see the people who were before you and how they helped get the program to where it was when I was here. Then you see those who came after you and even the girls competing today, where they continue to take the program to keep it at the realm of being in the top five every year.”

As members of one of the top teams in the country, the current Alabama gymnasts are looking to follow in Robbins’ and Pickens’ footsteps and win the Tide’s fifth national title and first since Pickens led Alabama in 2002.

“Something [Coach] David [Patterson] always instilled in us was to enjoy the journey,” Pickens said. “You take it one day at a time, and you pour your heart and soul into it. Then as the season comes, you take it one meet at a time and focus on the team and not on the individual, because in the end, it’s the team national championship you want.”

Robbins and Pickens, along with assistant coach Dana Duckworth, are all alumnae who still work within the program to help the current generation of Tide gymnasts.

“I enjoy it a lot,” Robbins said. “I’m fortunate, relative to my former teammates, that I do see it everyday and kind of see behind the scenes. As an athlete, you really don’t appreciate what all goes into getting ready for Friday nights or moving the team on the road.”

The alumnae will be honored on the floor before Friday’s meet against Florida. Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson, who brought the Tide all four of its national championships in her 32 years coaching at the Capstone, said having her former athletes come back once a year is the most gratifying part of her coaching career.

“I think of all the things we do, it’s the most rewarding thing to me about my career,” she said. “[The alumni] pretty much know what we’re doing over the entire year, but when those alumni gather together and I hear about their jobs and their careers, different things that they’re doing… To me, it’s one of the most rewarding things that we do, and I always look forward to this meet.”