Since there will be six teams competing at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional on Saturday and only four events, two teams will sit out each rotation on a bye.
Alabama senior gymnast Kiana Winston plans to spend that time coloring – yes, like in a coloring book – and listening to the works of Ed Sheeran, John Mayer and Jack Johnson. She prefers a mellower vibe despite the break coming in the middle of a postseason meet. Maybe she’ll help a teammate out with a puzzle, too.
“I just really don’t like waiting,” Winston said. “So the byes are like ‘OK, how can I distract myself?’ ”
NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional
When: Saturday at 4 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Teams: Alabama, Michigan, Georgia, Missouri, Illinois, Central Michigan
TV: SEC Network+
Distract herself from how No. 2 seed Michigan, No. 3 seed Georgia, Missouri, Illinois and Central Michigan are doing right next door. And the fact Michigan is ranked seventh in the nation, right on Alabama’s No. 6 tail. It’s a lot to think about.
Coaches decide whether or not their team leaves the gym for its bye.
“I like it because you can’t control what other people are doing,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “Naturally, your brain is going to create anxiety when you’re watching other people. It’s just human nature.”
Alabama’s first bye will be after its first two events – floor exercise and vault. It will be in the locker room. Its second will be during the final rotation of the night, after its turn on the uneven bars and balance beam. Since it’ll be done competing at that point, the team will actually remain inside.
Byes can be tricky. Take for example, Alabama senior Nickie Guerrero. She will have to do floor and vault – two powerful events – before resting. But then since she doesn’t do bars, that’ll be two back-to-back rotations where she stands around before her last event, beam.
“I got to figure out how to stay warm after those two events where I’ll just be constantly going then all of a sudden a stop,” Guerrero said. “So, I’ll probably be just chilling and trying to get my back warm. That’s really what I need to do.”
Also think about redshirt sophomore Peyton Ernst, who competes only on beam. She’ll have to sit through four rotations, which is normally an entire meet, before being called on. Again, tricky.
This will mark the first meet with byes for Alabama this season. The NCAA Championships on April 20-21 will be the same way.
Only two out of the six regional teams advance to that final stage.
“We thrive under a challenge,” Guerrero said. “So I think we’re pretty ready.”
More than ready.
Alabama hasn’t competed since SEC Championships two weeks ago, where it finished second. It had a bye week – different from byes during a meet, but time off regardless – that allowed the gymnasts to relax and recharge longer than it has at any other point this season. An in-meet bye will be short and sweet in comparison.
“My attitude is you have to be the very best you can so when you’re standing on that bye, somebody needs a 50 to beat you,” Duckworth said. “Right? That’s how good you want to be.”
A 50 signifies complete perfection on an event.