Not a single meet has gone exactly as planned for Alabama gymnastics so far this season. Not completely. There have been last-minute lineup changes in each of the Crimson Tide’s three showdowns.
The circumstances could easily be seen as less than ideal.
“Actually, we practice it,” Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. “We prepare for it. I’m telling you that if you work that depth, you’ll have as much depth as possible, and aren’t we blessed to have the bodies to be able to do it.”
All of the rearrangements have slipped by without any major faults. The Crimson Tide is still consistently getting better, even with the lineup switches. It has improved its all-around score every meet, starting with a 195.675 in its season opener and scoring a season-high 196.725 in its last meet.
Right now, Alabama averages 196.308 and ranks seventh in the nation. Its next opponent, Missouri, is 17th with a 195.6 average and a 196.325 high. The two face off Friday at Coleman Coliseum.
“We’re gaining more confidence,” UA senior Mackenzie Brannan said. “So I’m just real excited to see where this team can go. I think if we keep building upon each meet and if we keep going in that direction, we’ll be great.”
The Crimson Tide’s depth, which Brannan called a luxury, has survived the early tests.
Before Alabama’s first meet at Michigan, Brannan fell ill and was unable to compete. Fellow senior Jennie Loeb, making her first competitive appearance, took Brannan’s spot in the uneven bars lineup and scored 9.8.
During Alabama’s vault rotation against Georgia the following week, freshman Lexi Graber got hurt on her landing and was removed from the rest of competition. Junior Abby Armbrecht went in place of Graber on the balance beam and put up a 9.85.
Then, most recently at LSU last Friday, sophomore Wynter Childers sustained a cramp during her floor routine that didn’t go away in time to finish her all-around performance on beam. Freshman Alonza Klopfer made her debut instead and posted a 9.7. This call-up was a perfect example of what the upperclassmen learned long ago and preach to the newcomers.
“We’ve always told the freshmen: Be ready,” Alabama junior Ari Guerra said. “Because anything can happen.”
Already all four freshmen have experienced live competition. Really, 14 of the 15 gymnasts on Alabama’s roster have competed.
Without considering the exact order, there have been three different beam lineups and two different vault and bars lineups. Floor is the only event that has kept the same six gymnasts.
Depth or not, this isn’t the plan for the whole season.
“Ultimately, you’re looking for the best six that have the best lines, can be the most consistent and can score their best to help the team be at its best,” Duckworth said. “That only way to do that is to juggle people when you can.
“Or when you have to.”
No. 17 Missouri at No. 7 Alabama
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 1-2; Missouri 1-1
TV: ESPNU (taped delay Jan. 28 at 9 p.m.)