It’s hunting season in the world of college gymnastics, and University of Alabama coach Dana Duckworth wants it to be known that the Crimson Tide is on the prowl as it begins its postseason chase with the SEC Championships on Saturday.
“If people don’t think we’re in the hunt, then they haven’t been watching us,” Duckworth said. “Because if everyone looks at us putting it together, we are in the hunt.”
For the fourth year in a row, UA enters as the No. 3 seed. The last three saw Alabama win it all in 2014 and 2015, then finish runner-up to Florida in 2016 by just 0.025. In total, Alabama has nine SEC titles.
The Crimson Tide closed out its regular season with four consecutive victories, two of which were against a conference foe, and a 4-3 SEC record. Its overall season-high 197.825 came against Florida at the midway mark, but three event top marks were featured in the last two meets.
“The second half – however many we competed – went really fast, but I think it’s because everything really started to flow,” freshman Maddie Desch said. “Everything really started to fall into place, and we just really got confidence in the second half.”
Joining Alabama in the evening session are LSU, Florida and Georgia, with the first two leading in order. Kentucky, Missouri, Auburn and Arkansas have the afternoon slot.
Four of the top 10 teams in the nation are from the SEC. Two of those (LSU and Florida) are in the top five. Alabama is ranked sixth with a 197.285 RQS. Georgia is eighth.
“Here’s the coolest part about SECs: For all practical purposes, it is about the bling. It is about the bragging rights,” Duckworth said. “Yes, you can use it as an away score to add to your RQS, but it is the most fun meet of the year.”
There’s no comparison for the gymnasts either.
Senior Aja Sims experienced the two championships at the start of her career and would love for it to end it the same way. But she’s not getting ahead of herself, believing the results will handle themselves.
“I just know it’s going to be fun,” she said. “It’s going to be competitive. We want it that way. It shows how good everyone is in the SEC and really working for it.”
Because of its seed, Alabama will start on the balance beam and finish on the uneven bars. Nationally, UA is fourth on beam with a 49.4 RQS and sixth on bars with a 49.32 RQS. On the floor exercise and vault, Alabama is third (49.505) and fourth (49.3 RQS), respectively.
Still, the Crimson Tide sees each postseason meet as a clean slate.
“We’re going to go in there feeling like we have nothing to lose,” junior Nickie Guerrero said. “I’m ready for this team to go all out and kill it because I know we can.”
No. 6 Alabama in SEC Championships
When: Saturday at 5 p.m. CT
Where: Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida
Record: Alabama 7-4, 4-3 SEC
TV: SEC Network (Session II)