No. 8 Alabama at No. 22 Arkansas
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
Where: Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Records: Alabama 7-2, 2-1 SEC; Arkansas 1-3, 0-2 SEC
Alabama gymnastics’ event lineups are never going to be fully set in stone, and that’s OK. In fact, Crimson Tide coach Dana Duckworth does that by design. She estimates they’re about 85 percent concrete right now, which is as good as they’re going to get.
That way, no one is ever comfortable and everyone is ready to go.
“What’s really neat is you’re seeing this,” Duckworth said. “They’re starting to hold each other a little more accountable. I even heard one of them the other day say, ‘Listen, I know I’m in the bar lineup. But if you can go 9.95, take my spot.’
“Now, those are teams I’ve been on before that win championships.”
Not a single member of the Crimson Tide competed in the same spot in all of the first five meets, not even on one event. The leadoffs and anchors switched up at least once, and so did everyone in between.
The No. 1 and 2 spots on balance beam have recently been the most consistent, with sophomore Alonza Klopfer and junior Maddie Desch filling each slot in the last four meets.
Klopfer had never led off on beam prior to this season, but she has learned she prefers to.
“It’s easier for me just to get up and go because I don’t think as much,” Klopfer said. “When I think less, I do better. That’s how I am.”
Desch also went first on the floor exercise in four meets, just not consecutively.
“My philosophy on any event is I want my No. 1 and 2 to be a bing, bang, boom – right?” Duckworth said. “Like they’re very, very consistent, they have great scoring potential, and they can kind of set the stage for the rest of the team.”
The anchor is then the exclamation point of the rotation.
In theory, scores are supposed to build as a team progresses through its lineup. That doesn’t always happen. Alabama hasn’t had that happen.
“I wish I could tell you it doesn’t matter where you put them – it doesn’t affect the score – but I just feel sometimes you see that,” Duckworth said.
Sometimes. There have only been five cases where the Crimson Tide’s final gymnast had the highest score. That’s out of 20 lineups.
Sophomore Kylie Dickson’s season-high 9.85 on the uneven bars was scored twice and in two different lineup positions – fifth and second. She doesn’t necessarily like one groove more than the other, nor does she perform differently in either.
“I’m very grateful for that of course,” Dickson said. “You know, whether I’m second, whether I’m fifth or whether I’m first, just being in the lineup to help out my team is good enough for me.”
Right now, Alabama is No. 8 in the national rankings. The Crimson Tide is fifth on vault (49.165), seventh on floor (49.205), ninth on bars (49.15) and 24th on beam (48.785).
Alabama heads to No. 22 Arkansas (195.44 average, 196.125 high) on Friday. The Razorbacks are ranked 11th on floor (49.125), 13th on vault (49.020, 27th on beam (48.725) and 34th on bars (48.57).
The Crimson Tide won’t really know who’s competing where and when until the meet officially starts at 7 p.m. in Barnhill Arena.
“At the end of the day, everybody matters,” Duckworth said. “Everybody has a role.”
*Bold signifies the gymnast has competed in every meet so far.
*Yellow box means season-high event team score.
*Blue highlight represents highest individual score.
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.