No. 2 Florida at No. 9 Alabama
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 8-2, 3-1 SEC; Florida 4-1, 4-0 SEC
TV: SEC Network
The No. 9 Alabama gymnastics team is about to face its highest-ranked opponent of the season, as No. 2 Florida comes to town. Prior to this week, Alabama’s toughest competitor, at least in terms of its ranking, was No. 5 LSU. The Crimson Tide lost that meet at home but has won every meet since.
“It’s very easy to be motivated this week,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “Because it’s not only the No. 2 team in the country, which I think we can be as good as or better, but it’s also that you’re going to have an arena full of pink.”
That’s right. Friday is the Crimson Tide’s annual Power of Pink meet in Coleman Coliseum. The initiative is designed to raise breast cancer awareness.
“You’re doing it for the community and giving back not only to the survivors but to those that are fighting now and to the loves on that didn’t win their battle,” Duckworth said.
Alabama is undefeated in pink leotards — home or away — with a 28-0 record. That includes an upset win against Florida in 2017. At the time, the Crimson Tide was sixth and the Gators were third.
The gap is larger this time.
While Alabama is averaging a 196.371, Florida is at 197.67. The Gators are one of just two teams in the nation that have scored a 198 or better at least once (No. 1 Oklahoma is the other). Florida’s season high is a 198.025. Alabama owns a 196.9 best.
“I really don’t feel any extra pressure,” UA freshman Jensie Givens said. “We do the same preparation for every week. They ask, based on our competitors, are we doing anything different? We don’t change a single thing.
“We focus more on things after the previous meet — what the judges take and what they don’t. That’s what kind of leads us into the next week.”
It always seems to be the little things the Crimson Tide tries to focus on and perfect — pointing toes, straightening knees, sticking landings, tightening torsos, etc.
Right now, Alabama is ranked sixth on vault (49.163), seventh on the floor exercise (49.208) and 10th on the uneven bars (49.163). Balance beam (48.838) is still further down at 19th but The Crimson Tide continues to improve.
All of Florida’s events fall in the top 10. UF is first on both bars (49.535) and floor (49.545), second on beam (49.45) and seventh on vault (49.14).
“I just believe in what we’re building,” Duckworth said. “Every week, something is getting better. Every week, someone is stepping up, doing something a little better and getting a little more confidence. We’re still adding difficulty, like we haven’t even hit the best.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229