Seeding for the SEC gymnastics championships is pretty straightforward. Actually, it’s really straightforward.
The top four teams in the conference compete against each other in an evening meet, while the lower four teams battle it out earlier in the day. Highest score wins it all.
An afternoon team has never won.
“There’s definitely that stereotype on the first session,” UA sophomore Lexi Graber said. “But we’re here to break that stereotype.”
Because for the first time in program history, the Crimson Tide failed to make the cut for the evening portion.
Alabama is the No. 5 seed and will be going up against Auburn, Missouri and Arkansas at 3 p.m. LSU is the No. 1 seed and will be with Florida, Georgia and Kentucky later at 7 p.m.
“I am a dreamer and a believer,” Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. “I said to one friend I want to make what people may think is the impossible become the possible. And why can’t you be the SEC champions out of the afternoon session?”
You can. Just have to score higher than all of the other teams.
The format changed to two quad meets in 2013 when Missouri joined the conference. Since then, the top seed has won four times. A lower one has only won twice, and it was Alabama both times in the No. 3 slot (2014 and 2015).
Nothing is impossible, and the Crimson Tide does love this championship.
“It’s just so exhilarating,” UA senior Ariana Guerra said. “I just think that’s always by far my most favorite meet, even compares to NCAAs. Like I’m not even kidding.”
SECs are a competitive environment. Seven of the eight teams have scored a 197 or better, two of them have gone above a 198. Five of the programs are in the top 10 of the latest rankings, including Alabama.
An SEC team has won six of the last 10 NCAA titles. But the last time an SEC team earned a conference and national trophy in the same year was 2013 (Florida).
2019 SEC Championships
Session I: No. 10 Alabama vs. No. 12 Auburn, No. 19 Missouri, No. 20 Arkansas
Session II: No. 3 LSU vs. No. 4 Florida, No. 8 Georgia, No. 9 Kentucky
When: Saturday at 3 p.m. (Session I), 7 p.m. (Session II)
Where: Smoothie King Center in New Orleans
Record: Alabama 10-5, 4-3 SEC
TV: SEC Network (Session I), ESPN 2 (Session II)
“I know the skills and the routines we have crafted with a little more attention to detail and execution in sticking our landings, hitting our handstands and selling everything, it’s there,” Duckworth said. “It’s possible. And I’m never going to let our team think they’re not able to achieve the very best.”
Alabama is ranked 10th nationally with a 196.9 National Qualifying Score. Last week, it scored a season-high 197.25, so it’s hoping to build off that.
Because of its seeding, the Crimson Tide will go through events in Olympic order: vault first, uneven bars and balance beam next and then floor exercise last. Alabama is seventh on floor (49.375), ninth on vault (49.225) and 13th on both bars (49.235) and beam (49.21).
“We’ve worked harder than any team I’ve been on up until this year,” Graber said. “I think we’re excited, and I think we can try to make history and set that so that people fear us in the second session, ‘Alabama just scored a really high score. We have to beat that.’
“So, set that expectation.”