Katie Bailey left a note in her locker after cleaning it out for one last time. In it, the University of Alabama senior gymnast reminds the next owner to embrace every moment of her career because the four years go by quicker than expected. Each individual season goes by even faster.

The Crimson Tide just wrapped up its 2017 journey, finishing sixth in the nation for the first time since 2009.

“I don’t believe in flukes,” Bailey said. “I believe whatever happened was supposed to happen, but this team is really talented and we worked our butts off all season.”

A streak was expanded, too. Alabama is the only program in the nation to finish as a top-six team in each of the last 10 years. It holds an NCAA-best 33 top-six finishes overall.

UA coach Dana Duckworth believes sixth was a clear reflection of the season. There were a lot of ups and downs. She constantly had to change the lineup due to injuries, and it was never just one event that gave the team issues. It changed weekly and was challenging to manage.

“I also go back to the fact that isn’t it an honor to be a part of a program where coming in sixth in the country isn’t good enough?” Duckworth said. “I don’t look at that as a negative. I look at that as something that fires me up.”

At national championships, the Crimson Tide earned six All-America honors, splitting among junior Kiana Winston (three) and seniors Aja Sims, Keely McNeer and Bailey. Beforehand, junior Nickie Guerrero, Winston (four) and Sims had already received regular season All-America honors.

Bailey closed out her career with a second NCAA individual title, this time on the uneven bars, her favorite event. She was the Crimson Tide’s only national champion.

“I’m not really sure what my life is yet without gymnastics, so I think that’s going to be interesting to figure out,” Bailey said. “It’s definitely been bittersweet.”

In total, Alabama graduates six seniors – Amanda Jetter, Mary Lillian Sanders, Mackenzie Valentin, Bailey, Sims and McNeer. The biggest thing Duckworth believes UA loses with that class is its competitive experience. All have been a part of the lineup since their sophomore years. Most have been since freshman.

The Crimson Tide is gaining five new faces in Bailie Key, Kylie Dickson, Alonza Klopfer, Lexi Graber and Kait Scott. It’s also now allowed to utilize sophomore Peyton Ernst, who redshirted due to NCAA transfer rules after she left Florida.

Like every year, it’ll be a new team.

“The strongest point of this team was the heart that we had for each other,” Winston said. “I would have to say we genuinely care for one another, and we did our gymnastics for one another.”

That bond is something the Crimson Tide wants to continue to have and build. It’ll keep the motto “for her” – and never forget the “trust your training” mantra.

But for now it’s over. The gymnasts’ bodies need a break, and so does Duckworth’s brain. It was a rocky ride – with a season-high 197.825 and a season-low 195.325 – but the lessons learned from the losses were just as important as the ones from the wins.

“We worked hard and gave the best we had for the season,” freshman Maddie Desch said. “I just think it’s so cool that I get to do it again.”