Gymnastics isn’t a sport an athlete can carry well into adulthood. It’s not like throwing a football, kicking a soccer ball or shooting a free throw. Age prevents most of the actions.
Alabama seniors Abby Armbrecht, Ariana Guerra and Angelina Giancroce know after college, they’re more than likely never going to do competitive gymnastics again.
“All three of them, it’s not like they’re going by every day wishing this to be over and I can’t wait,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “They don’t want it to end. Now, physically, their bodies hurt. Your senior year, you’re 22 years old doing this sport, it’s not easy. But they are trying to squeeze every bit of gymnastics out.”
Each senior has pushed herself a little extra this year. Armbrecht has thrown her double layout— an E pass — on the floor exercise during competition, something she had never done before. Guerra switched one 10.0 vault for another, giving up her Servente, which she was comfortable with but not perfecting, and learning how to do a Yurchenko 1.5. Giancroce didn’t compete at all due to an injury in 2017, did only one event (uneven bars) in 2018 and has now done three events (bars, floor and balance beam) in 2019.
“We have worked so hard as seniors,” Guerra said. “We adjusted to what the coaches wanted, we did more numbers than we’ve ever done my whole career, and we’ve continued to do that even in season.”
They all have something distinctive about them, too.
Armbrecht became the first Alabama gymnast to graduate in three years when she received her undergraduate degree in May 2018. Now she’s in a one-year master’s program for digital and social media marketing.
“I’ve learned that I don’t shy away from a challenge,” Armbrecht said. “I really like to embrace a challenge when things get difficult.”
Guerra arrived at UA with four screws in her back, and they’re still there. Yet she’s one of the five gymnasts who have competed in every meet this season.
“I would say my back has help up probably the best this year out of all my ailments,” Guerra said. “I would say I have other issues, like my ankles, that are not quite on my side right now. But it’s worth it.”
Giancroce was primed to do her best gymnastics as a sophomore, but then she ruptured her right Achilles and was then sidelined all season. She has since had to work her way back into the lineup, where she has found herself in half of this year’s meets.
“I never thought that I wouldn’t still be competing,” Giancroce said. “I didn’t know what it would look like really. … The fact that I hurt less this year than I have in any other year, I’m kind of just in awe that my body is still working.”
Awe seems to be the right word for all of this. Maybe bittersweet is better, or even surreal. Regardless, none of them can believe this Friday is their Senior Night in Coleman Coliseum.
But it is what it is.
“We know we’re not going to get this back after this year,” Armbrecht said. “So, we just want to do as much as we can for our team and really enjoy every single moment. Not hold back. Not have any regrets.”
No. 12 Auburn at No. 8 Alabama
When: Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 8-4, 3-3 SEC; Auburn 7-1, 5-1 SEC
TV: SEC Network
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.