For the first time since 2018, one of the most storied programs in college gymnastics will find itself back at the NCAA National Championship Semifinals for the 37th time in program history.
“It’s an honor to move on,” head coach Dana Duckworth said. “We continue to show fierce grace, and they’re just a fantastic group to work with.”
The Crimson scored a 197.525, which marks its sixth consecutive score of 197 or better, to place first in day one of the NCAA Tuscaloosa regional. The score gave the team a chance to clinch a spot at Nationals the following day.
Alabama opened and closed the afternoon in perfect fashion as sophomores Luisa Blanco and Makarri Doggette each scored their first collegiate perfect 10.0. Blanco’s came on the first apparatus, the balance beam, and Doggette’s came in the final rotation, the uneven bars. Blanco went on to score her second-highest all-around score of the season, 39.80, which earned her the sixth all-around title of the season.
“I finally put all the pieces together, and when I stuck that landing I was like, ‘Yeah, I got it,’” Blanco said.
Despite finishing the meet first overall, the team’s season was still on the line heading into the final rotation. A season-low of 49.025 on vault ultimately put the team at a second-place tie with the Iowa Hawkeyes. But Alabama met its low with a season high of 49.675 on the uneven bars to close out the meet. Aside from Dogette’s perfect 10, three other gymnasts scored a 9.900 or better.
“If we did not do our job on bars, we would not be going into tomorrow,” Duckworth said. “I would say we warmed up really well, so I was very confident and they exceeded expectations on bars tonight.
The Crimson Tide was able to advance without the help of the face of its program, senior Lexi Graber, who is recovering from a lower leg injury. Graber warmed up, but Duckworth made the game time decision to have the Florida native forgo the competition.
April marks a decade since a deadly tornado tore through Tuscaloosa and left over 1,000 people injured and 64 Alabamians dead. Duckworth decided to have the team wear the “Tide Together” leotards to honor the lives that were lost.
For the second-straight night the Crimson Tide scored within the 197.500 range, 195.575, to propel the program to a second-place finish behind No. 2 Oklahoma, which was enough to advance to the NCAA Championship Semifinals.
Alabama opened up the regional final on the uneven bars and scored its second-highest score on the event this season, 49.625. Five straight scores of 9.90 were counted in the rotation highlighted by 9.975 from Adams, which marks a career-high for the freshman.
The Crimson Tide followed the uneven bars with a season-low on beam, 49.150, but tallied a 49.425 on floor exercise and a 49.375 on vault to close out the meet. It was good enough for “Team 47” to pack its bags for its upcoming trip to Fort Worth, Texas. Five scores of 9.90 or better were posted in the second half of the meet and 11 overall.
“We flipped the switch and wanted to show every other team who we are and [that] we were going to fight,” junior Emily Gaskins said.
Like the regional opener, Blanco scored nothing less than a 9.90 for an all-around score of 39.675 and finished second in the all-around Saturday night. The SEC Gymnast of the Year will head back to her home state, which puts a smile on her face.
“It’s so great to go home, and I cannot wait to be back,” Blanco said.
Despite missing the regional opener due to a nagging injury, Graber persevered and told Duckworth she “wanted to compete” and made an appearance in the vault lineup. Graber has been a staple in the all-around since her freshman year and Duckworth described a feeling of “appreciation” for the senior after performing for her final time in Coleman Coliseum.