And just like that, Alabama gymnastics’ regular season is officially halfway over.
The Crimson Tide has competed in six meets already. Five remain on the schedule, starting with a Kentucky showdown on Friday. The Wildcats will be the last Southeastern Conference opponent guaranteed a visit to Coleman Coliseum. Any others will have to get a bid to the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional in April.
“It’s going to be a great competition,” Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. “It’s a different Kentucky than we’ve seen. They’re just going to get better, and they’re doing a great job.”
Nationally, Kentucky sits at ninth, averaging a 196.321. It was ranked 10th in the 2018 preseason coaches poll, which was four spots above its 2017 finish. Once the season started, the Wildcats quickly climbed the rankings.
After the first week of competition, Kentucky was sixth. It then had back-to-back weeks at fifth before returning to its previous slot.
The Wildcats remained sixth until this week, when they dropped three spots after posting a season-low 195.55 at home. Both Kentucky and Alabama are coming off a loss.
“I know that we have to come in with our minds set and work on doing our very, very best this weekend,” Duckworth said. “Very focused.”
Here’s the big difference: UA may have also lost last week, but it still produced a season-high score of 197.075. It was the first time Alabama scored higher than a 197, something only nine teams in the nation can boast. Kentucky is not one of those teams.
The Crimson Tide is ranked seventh with a 196.475 average, improving its mark by 0.12 and moving up from ninth.
All Alabama wanted to do was be one percent better, and it was.
“Even if it is one percent again this week, I think it worked and I think it was a really positive message,” UA sophomore Shea Mahoney said. “It allowed us to really go inside ourselves and find that one percent better that we can bring to the team. That’s what we’re going to strive to do every week.”
Looking at event strength, Alabama and Kentucky are switched. While UA’s strongest events are the uneven bars and the balance beam, UK’s are the vault and the floor exercise.
Alabama is ranked sixth on bars (49.25), ninth on beam (49.108), 12th on floor (49.146) and 22nd on vault (48.971). Kentucky is sixth on floor (49.25), seventh on vault (49.104), 12th on beam (49.021) and 20th on bars (48.946).
“It’s really exciting,” Alabama senior Nickie Guerrero said, “because I know that we can do even better – get more difficulty and harder routines out there – and just execute better.”