The University of Alabama gymnastics team had a problem, and Wynter Childers was the solution.
Before Alabama defeated Auburn for the second time this season, 197.35 to 196.45, Aja Sims fell off the uneven bars and smacked her head. UA head coach Dana Duckworth had Sim go through concussion protocol and ultimately pulled her from the lineup just to be safe.
The senior was out. The freshman was in.
“Everybody has to be ready,” Childers said. “I wasn’t expecting it, but at the same time, I was ready to do it.”
The Spearfish, South Dakota, native started off with a 9.85 on the vault to tie her career-high. She then broke out a 9.825 on the bars to set a new benchmark. She followed up with a 9.775 on the balance beam and finished the night with a 9.85 on the floor exercise.
It was first time Childers has gone all-around as a collegiate gymnast. She finished in second with a 39.3.
“It shows that this young lady is extremely talented,” Duckworth said. “She is a great example of someone that has a great deal of inner drive.”
For the first three events, Childers went second, following senior Keely McNeer’s steady, lead-off performances. For her last event, Childers was not only the Crimson Tide’s anchor, but also the last performer of the meet.
Outside of the team, no one had seen Childers’ floor routine.
“The judge came up to me and was like, ‘I liked her dance,’” Duckworth said. “Yeah, we do, too.”
Childers wanted to compete on the floor ever since visiting Alabama as a recruit. She remembers watching the Crimson Tide compete and craving that moment herself. She couldn’t wait.
There was a delay, though. Before Childers arrived on campus, she tore her ACL while competing on the vault for Spearfish Gymnastics Academy. She had to slowly ease her way back into competition, starting with the balance beam.
“I didn’t expect to come back this fast,” Childers said.
Floor was the last event to come back for Childers. After finally experiencing it firsthand, Childers could only come up with one word to describe it: awesome.
There were other youngsters out there for Alabama, too. Freshmen Maddie Desch and Shea Mahoney once again competed against the Tigers.
That’s three of the four freshmen who have made an instant impact. This wasn’t their first meet, or even their second, third or fourth. All of them even performed during Alabama’s season-opener, even if it was exhibition.
“Part of the fun for me is looking back and remember what it was like to be in that position,” McNeer said. “After four years of doing this, you get into a routine. Half the fun for me is watching how they’re soaking it in.”
Desch tied her season-high 9.85 on the bars and posted a 9.9 on the floor. Mahoney had a 9.85 on the uneven bars.
After the meet, Duckworth said Sims should be fine after resting. It was unfortunate that happened to Sims last minute, but when things like that happen, others get a chance to step up.
“I wanted to give Wynter her opportunity,” Duckworth said, “so she could be successful and taste success.”
Mary Lillian Sanders;9.75