Even the scores that weren’t taken into account mattered.
As the No. 4 University of Alabama gymnastics team defeated No. 12 Boise State, 196.925 to 196. 675, there were three performances that didn’t count – at all. They weren’t dropped scores. They were exhibition scores.
“It is very important, not just because of getting back out there,” sophomore Ari Guerra said, “but it’s because you can have the opportunity to go all-in no matter what.”
Before Friday’s meet at Coleman Coliseum, UA head coach Dana Duckworth had to choose whether or not Alabama was going to have anyone go exhibition and, if so, who.
The first was a given. The second she had to think about. Duckworth ultimately picked Guerra and senior Mackenzie Valentin.
“It basically comes down to who’s been the most consistent and who’s earned the chance to be able to go exhibition,” Duckworth said. “Because at the end of the day, you want as many people ready for when they’re called on.”
After all was said and done, Guerra received a 9.725 exhibition score on the uneven bars. She also earned a competitive 9.875 on the floor exercise. Valentin’s 8.85 on the vault and 9.25 on the floor were both exhibition scores.
Valentin has competed on the floor already this season, but her most recent time was three weeks ago. She hadn’t touched the vault once this season.
“She needed to get out there,” Duckworth said. “She hadn’t been out there in a little bit. If anything, she’ll just build off that.”
This isn’t something the Crimson Tide can do every meet. In fact, it’s actually a pretty rare occurrence since a team can only do so if the meet isn’t being televised.
Alabama has had five meets so far with a live broadcast. Even then, the last time any member of the Crimson Tide went exhibition was at Oklahoma for the season-opener.
“The more experience you can get, the better you’re going to become in handling any situation you’re under,” Duckworth said.
Exhibition is how sophomore Abby Armbrecht got her initial taste of the balance beam. She went exhibition at Oklahoma, receiving a 9.775. She later earned her first competitive score of a 9.825, which also came on the road.
“The last time I compete beam, the crowd was nowhere near this big,” Armbrect said. “So I definitely felt the butterflies.”
With 10,648 sets of eyes on her Friday night, she scored a career-high 9.85 for her first beam appearance in Coleman Coliseum.
After the meet, Duckworth turned to her gymnast with a message.
“I want you to use this performance to allow you to realize how good you can be and how much we needed you,” Duckworth told Armbrecht. “I thought you did a great job in handling that.”
The point of exhibition is to give a gymnast an idea of where she is at competitively, especially with actual judges. It allows her to grow and get comfortable before being tossed into the actual lineup.
No, those scores didn’t count, but they might eventually.
“It gave me confidence that I can do this and that I need to keep building up to what my full potential is,” Guerra said.