No. 17 Alabama at No. 10 Georgia
When: Friday at 6:30 p.m. CT
Where: Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia
Records: Alabama 5-1, Georgia 1-1
TV: SEC Network
The Alabama-Georgia gymnastics rivalry has changed in recent years, maybe even calmed down a bit for the better. But it sure hasn’t gone away. Not when both of the programs know exactly where they came from and where they want to go.
“Legacy of champions,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “My inner competitiveness comes out. It’s a great rivalry.”
Duckworth would know. She competed for Alabama from 1990-93, winning a team national championship and two NCAA individual titles during that time.
Georgia’s Courtney Kupets Carter is in the same position. She also leads her alma mater, competing at UGA from 2006-09. She won four team and nine individual national championship titles as a competitor.
The two of them trained under former head coaches Sarah Patterson (36 years at UA) and Suzanne Yoculan Leebern (26 years at UGA), who combined for 16 national championships and 24 Southeastern Conference titles.
“Georgia gymnastics and Alabama gymnastics, we’re two of the top programs that brought college gymnastics into what we see it today, and I think that’s what’s even more profound about it,” Kupets Carter said. “To have Suzanne around (as a volunteer assistant coach), we’re probably going to have to keep her away from the team. No, I’m just kidding. Her and Alabama, it’s just you say the word and she’s ready to pounce.”
Everyone in Georgia was, especially when the Crimson Tide was in the Bulldogs’ Stegeman Coliseum.
“Way back in my day, I don’t know if this is true or not but I think when I was on beam, the baseball team was throwing ice,” Duckworth said. “And I think they were opening up their newspapers, acting like they weren’t watching us when we were on floor.”
Reverse the rolls, and Kupets Carter remembers Alabama fans would boo Georgia when it came to Coleman Coliseum.
Audiences may have matured – this is where the calming for better comes in – but the team spirit is strong as ever.
“Of course there’s always pride,” Alabama senior Angelina Giancroce said. “We have pride for our school every single day we walk around campus, when we step into the gym and when we go out in Coleman Coliseum. I don’t think walking into a different arena will make us feel any different.”
No, but the Crimson Tide is internally excited about opening its road and conference schedule against the Bulldogs. Georgia is currently tied for 10th in the nation with a 195.95 average, while Alabama shares 17th thanks to its 195.463 average. Georgia’s season-high 196.6 is 0.425 better than Alabama’s best mark through two meets.
Some things never change.
“I just remember that it was very easy to be motivated when you were competing against Georgia because you knew you were going to be against some of the best,” Duckworth said. “And to become the best, you have to compete against the best.”
Brandon Sudge from The Telegraph and macon.com contributed to this report.
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.