On Sunday night, a couple members of the Alabama gymnastics team made a special trip to Target. They picked out different facemasks, some jars of nail polish, headbands, a pair of sweatpants, a cozy sweatshirt, and a variety of coloring books. The person receiving what would soon be compiled into a care package loves to color.
Alabama sophomore Shea Mahoney called all the items “little happies.” They are basically everything a gymnast needs after undergoing surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon. Mahoney has been there before, and senior Mackenzie Brannan will be there Wednesday.
No. 7 Alabama at No. 16 Auburn
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
Where: Auburn Arena
Records: Alabama 4-3, 4-2 SEC; Auburn 6-6, 1-4 SEC
TV: SEC Network
“If I think I’m having a rough day, like it doesn’t really even compare right now,” Mahoney said. “I firmly am a very strong believer in God doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle. She handles this with so much grace and so much poise. She’s my idol. She’s my hero.”
Earlier that day of the Target run, Brannan sustained the season-ending injury in practice. She was working on her floor exercise, an event she had not competed this season but had in the past. She was hoping to make the lineup again, but now her competitive career is over.
An MRI on Monday confirmed the initial diagnosis, but surgery was already scheduled for Wednesday.
“What I want to see our ladies do is use this to allow other people to step up,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “They have to have her back because she’s had theirs for so many different years and different situations. Find something good out of something that was heartbreaking.”
As the anchor on bars, Brannan competed in all but one of Alabama’s seven meets this season. Five of her scores have been a 9.875 or higher. She most recently posted a season-high 9.925.
The gymnasts Duckworth will look to fill in the unexpected void are sophomore Wynter Childers, junior Angelina Giancroce and senior Jennie Loeb. All have competed on bars in the past. Monday’s practice marked the start of that internal competition before a decision will be made for Alabama’s meet at Auburn this Friday.
“I think this is kind of going to be hard for her,” redshirt sophomore Peyton Ernst said. “But also right when this happened, she let us know that she’s going to be here for this team. She’s going to own her role.”
The team is wearing green ribbons all season in honor of Brannan’s brother Brian, who was diagnosed with cancer in November. Brannan has showed how strong and supportive she can be.
This will just be another example.
“One of the things we say on our team — If you’re strong, I’m strong,” Mahoney said. “Because she is so strong and because she is not letting this affect her in really any way, it gives us even more strength and even more motivation to just dedicate the rest of the season to her. We all know she would give anything to be out there with us.”