Hannah Saad | @hannah_saad21
No. 6 Alabama gymnastics (6-1) will have a chance to win its 10th conference title on Friday night in Coleman Coliseum. The team standing in the Crimson Tide’s way is the top-ranked Florida Gators (7-0).
“We are still not at our peak and that’s an exciting place to be as we go into our final regular home meet of the regular season,” head coach Dana Duckworth said.
The Crimson Tide is seeking its first conference title since 2015, Duckworth’s inaugural season as a head coach, and the Gators are looking to go back-to-back for the first time since the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Alabama only has a chance to have a share of the title with a win, but Florida can be the outright Southeastern Conference champions with a 17th straight win dating back to the 2020 season.
“I’m excited to take it out with my girls,” senior Lexi Graber said. “It’s gonna be a great night.”
A championship can be lost on the balance beam, but Alabama has consistently put up solid scores on the apparatus and is ranked fourth nationally on the event. In its last three meets, Alabama has not scored lower than a 49.350 and is coming off a season-high of 49.550 against Arkansas, which is its highest score on the apparatus since 2017.
Sophomore Luisa Blanco has been a staple in the beam lineup this season. Blanco has competed in the event in six of the seven meets and has scored nothing lower than a 9.875. She has also scored a trio of 9.925s and had a career-high of 9.975 against No. 3 LSU.
Florida is also coming off a season high on the balance beam with a 49.700 against Auburn. The Gators did not only own the balance beam last week, but have done so the whole season as it is ranked No. 1 on the apparatus with an average of 49.546. Florida junior Leah Clapper is one of the team’s fiercest competitors, as she scored a perfect 10 on the apparatus this season.
The balance beam is not the only apparatus that Florida is ranked number one on as it takes the top spot on every other event as well. The Gators lowest average on an event is the uneven bars, 49.364, and Alabama ranks fourth nationally on the event with a 49.264 average.
The event with the biggest difference between Alabama and Florida is the floor exercise. Alabama is ranked nine spots lower, tenth overall, on the event. However, the Crimson Tide has shown the ability to put up a huge score as it did so against LSU with a 49.550, which is the only time the team has scored a 49.300 on the event.
“We had some decent floor routines [last week], but we know we have more in the tank,” Duckworth said.
Two of the best floor competitors in the nation will compete in the meet: Graber and Florida’s Trinity Thomas. Graber is ranked third nationally in terms of average, 9.920, and Thomas has the highest national qualifying score on the event with a 9.975. Thomas has scored two perfect 10s on the floor this season.
First vault between Alabama and Florida is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The SEC Network will carry the broadcast.