They’re not lost.
Southeastern Conference gymnastics fans present at the NCAA Championships are at the right place. Ratios also tend to be skewed in their favor. Alabama alone recently advanced to its 36th-consecutive nationals. So has Florida but not in a row.
“Someone always starts an SEC chant,” UA senior Kiana Winston said. “Because there’s so many there.”
This year, there will be more than ever.
NCAA Gymnastics Championships
When: Friday at noon
Where: Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis
Semifinal Session I: Alabama, Nebraska, UCLA, LSU, Arkansas, Georgia
Semifinal II (6 p.m.): Utah, Kentucky, Florida, Oklahoma, California, Washington
TV: ESPN2 (Semifinal I)
Six SEC teams will compete at the NCAA Championships, which starts Friday with two semifinal sessions. No. 2 LSU, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Alabama, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 10 Arkansas and No. 12 Georgia will all be in attendance. That’s half the field and sets a conference record.
“Typically it’s usually the top – Georgia, Florida, LSU and Alabama – but now it’s starting to get where it’s also Arkansas and Kentucky,” Alabama senior Nickie Guerrero said. “They’re getting really up there competitive wise.”
In the afternoon session, four of the six teams are from the SEC. Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Arkansas start at noon. It’s the first time in nine years the Crimson Tide isn’t in the evening session.
Speaking of the evening session, Florida and Kentucky represent the SEC and begin at 6 p.m.
The venue is also the same as the SEC Championships: Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis.
“It’s kind of like a family reunion all over again from SECs and then when you go to either their home or they come to you,” Winston said. “It’s just known that you have your friends there and you have your teammates there, and it’s just like a party.”
At the last party, Alabama finished second. LSU claimed the conference title.
But back to the national level.
Since the NCAA Championships started in 1982, there have been 19 seasons with an SEC winner. That’s more than any other conference. Georgia leads with 10 titles. Alabama holds six. Florida has three.
“I’m biased,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “I think the SEC is the best gymnastics conference in the country. … I think people that are recruited to come to the programs, they need to know what they’re signing up for.”
Scores are increasing, too.
The first national championship was won with a 148.6. Last year’s first-place mark was a 198.3875.
“You’re more threatened every single year,” Guerrero said. “I think it’s hard for people to explain fan wise that it’s the whole gymnastics world getting very competitive and into college gymnastics. It’s good for the whole sport, but it’s definitely a little nerve-wracking at the same time.”
Enter No. 1 Oklahoma.
The Sooners are back-to-back reigning national champions. They will be in the later semifinal, along with No. 5 Utah, No. 9 California, No. 11 Washington and the two SEC teams.
No. 3 UCLA and No. 7 Nebraska join Alabama and SEC Co. in the earlier semifinal.
Only three teams from each session move on to the final day.
“There’s pressure,” Duckworth said. “It’s the only way to get to Super Six. I think the way you frame it and your mindset to it – the first night – is you act as if this is the only night I get. How do I want it to end?”