The University of Alabama gymnastics team was set to celebrate ‘80’s Night against Arkansas on Friday but had little idea that the appropriate soundtrack would be the power ballad from Poison: “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

That turned out to be the case as Alabama gymnast Griffin James suffered what Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth described as “an Achilles injury.” That resulted in James being carried from the floor by the UA medical staff, an occurrence that not only caused obvious personal consternation for the other Crimson Tide gymnasts, put Alabama in a precarious competitive situation against No. 21 Arkansas.

Alabama had already had to count a fall on the balance beam and, with James unable to complete her floor routine, would have to have five strong floor performances to win.

The No. 6-ranked Crimson Tide got those performances, including three 9.925 scores. That was just enough for UA to edge the visiting Razorbacks, 196.625-196.100.

That score was well short of the season-high 197.550 Alabama recorded a week earlier at its Power of Pink Meet, but represented what Duckworth called a “courageous” effort.

“I want to applaud the floor team for the University of Alabama because that was the epitome of ‘For Her,” Duckworth said. “We have some of our other athletes who have had the same kind of injury that Griffin had, so you can imagine how they felt seeing that happen.

“But we have a term called ‘fierce grace’ that we use all the time. I think you saw that tonight. They were fiercely competitive and then, at the end, they were crying because they don’t want to see one of their sisters hurt.”

Before the team began its final rotation on the floor, they had huddled together for extra inspiration at overcoming a 48.525 score on the beam.

“Alabama gymnastics isn’t about quitting,” said Shallon Olsen. “We just decided to step up on that next rotation. Then Griffin was hurt, It’s really hard to see someone get hurt before me, right before my eyes. But you flip it. You go out and do it for her.”

Duckworth said the team’s strong closing performance was especially impressive after the Crimson Tide’s beam issues.

“The (balance beam) was very uncharacteristic for our team,” Duckworth said. “We tried some new things as far as our order of competitors. We have a strong team, eight beam workers we feel about. But I thought after the first fall, we became hesitant, not aggressive.”

Alabama did have some high spots, including the consecutive 9.925 floor routines from Olsen, Shea Mahoney and Maddie Desch. Alonza Klopfer had a much-needed 9.850 on the balance beam. Makarri Doggette won the bars with a 9.900, but felt knee pain on her landing and did not compete in the final two events. Lexi Graber won the vault with a 9.900.

Kennedy Hambrick of Arkansas was the meet’s top all-around performer with a 39.400.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or via Twitter, @cecilhurt


Ella Burgess — 9.750
Maddie Desch — 9.850
Shea Mahoney — 9.850
Luisa Blanco — 9.875
Shallon Olsen — 9.875
Lexi Graber — 9.900
Uneven Bars
Kylie Dickson — 9.825
Wynter Childers — 9.850
Lexi Graber — 9.800
Jensie Givens — 9.625
Shea Mahoney — 9.850
Makarri Doggette — 9.900
Balance Beam
Ella Burgess — 9.000
Emily Gaskins — 9.750
Shallon Olsen — 9.775
Alonza Klopfer — 9.850
Luisa Blanco — 9.825
Lexi Graber — 9.325
Floor exercise
Griffin James — 6.200 (injury)
Shallon Olsen — 9.900
Shea Mahoney — 9.925
Maddie Desch — 9.925
Lexi Graber — 9.900
Alonza Klopfer — 9.850