Alabama Gymnastics to host No. 9 Kentucky in home opener

Freshman Lilly Hudson salutes before her balance beam routine against the Florida Gators on Sunday.

Courtesy of UA Athletics Photography

Freshman Lilly Hudson salutes before her balance beam routine against the Florida Gators on Sunday.

Robert Cortez | @robertcortez27, Assistant Sports Editor

After a pair of road meets to open up its 2022 campaign, No. 10 Alabama (0-2; 0-1 SEC) gymnastics will compete in front of its home crowd. The Crimson Tide will welcome No. 9 Kentucky (1-0) Friday night for a top-10 affair in its home opener. 

“We’re certainly excited to be starting our home stretch in Coleman Coliseum, because there’s nothing like competing in front of your home crowd,” head coach Dana Duckworth said. 

Freshman Lilly Hudson said she’s excited to finally compete in Coleman Coliseum.

“I’ve just been waiting for this moment for so long,” Hudson said. 

Senior Sania Mitchell is excited to perform in front of over 10,000 fans once again, especially after COVID-19 attendance regulations last season. Mitchell advised Hudson and the two other freshmen on the team to not make the moment bigger than it is. 

“I try to encourage them and just tell them do what they’ve been doing in practice,” Mitchell said. “I’m so proud of all three of them. I’m just excited to see them grow and see what they can accomplish throughout their career.” 

Duckworth said the team’s goal is to be better than the week before. Mitchell saw this come to fruition between weeks one and two due to the team’s “change of mindset” heading into last weekend’s meet against No. 3 Florida, which she hopes will snowball into this weekend’s meet against Kentucky. 

“The last week before we went to Florida was just changing our mindset in our approach,” Mitchell said. “Really focusing on details and really being intentional with what we do. We upped the intensity at practice and we were able to carry it into the competition.”

Although the Crimson Tide possess a better season-high score than the Wildcats, they are still ranked lower since the rankings are based on the average score of the season. 

Alabama posted a season-high score of 196.925 in its loss last weekend, which bolstered its season average score to 196.400. Kentucky posted a 196.525 in its victory over Ball State last weekend. 

In the 2021 season, Alabama didn’t break the 197 mark until the fifth meet of the season. Despite a trio of SEC teams — No. 3 Florida, No. 7 Auburn and No. 11 Arkansas — and seven total programs already breaking the 197 mark, senior Sania Mitchell doesn’t feel the need to focus on the score. 

“Our main focus is and should be to just focus on hitting our routines, clean execution, solid landings and things like that,” Mitchell said. “The scores, the results, all that will come.” 

Kentucky junior Raena Worley was named the SEC Gymnast of the Week on Tuesday. Worley was the meet’s all-around champion with a 39.650 score. Her highest score of the meet was 9.950 on the uneven bars, and her only score lower than a 9.90 came on the balance beam, 9.875. 

Duckworth asks The University of Alabama student body to come to Coleman Coliseum Friday night and support the team. She believes the students have the power to be positive difference makers in the meet. 

“Your energy, your passion, and what you bring to Coleman Coliseum, it impacts the judges,” Duckworth said. “It helps our athletes just even strive for more because they are as excited as you are to watch them. It’s an amazing sport, it’s free, they can get in there without a cost, and no student is going to be turned away.”

First vault between Alabama and Kentucky is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT. The meet will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

Questions? Email the Sports desk at sports@cw.ua.edu.