No. 30 Iowa State at No. 6 Alabama
- When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Coleman Coliseum
- Records: Alabama 6-4; Iowa State 11-5
This is it. This is officially the last group.
After the University of Alabama senior gymnastics class graduates, there will no longer be anyone on the team who trained under the legendary Sarah Patterson.
“This class is the last class that we were in the gym with, had hands-on experience and basically watched them grow as freshmen,” said Patterson, who coached at UA for 36 years with her husband. “Then we removed ourselves. We weren’t coaches, but we watched them grow in competition for the next three years.”
That time is about to come to an end.
Friday’s meet against Iowa State is senior night, and there are six Alabama gymnasts who will make their last competitive appearance in Coleman Coliseum: Katie Bailey, Amanda Jetter, Keely McNeer, Mary Lillian Sander, Aja Sims and Mackenzie Valentin.
The first five were a part of Patterson’s 2014 team.
“I felt like over the course of their freshman year, they matured tremendously,” Patterson said. “It was hard when we walked away from the sport for all the right reasons. It was hard to leave them.”
Valentin transferred to Alabama after Patterson’s final season, before Dana Duckworth’s first.
Once she took over, Duckworth never saw that maturation end. Really, the end was the same as the beginning.
During the Crimson Tide’s final season with Patterson, it won an SEC Championship title and finished fourth in the nation. During its first season with Duckworth, it did the same.
“I’m very proud of how this senior class has really adapted,” Duckworth said. “They taught me a lot. They taught me about leadership.”
Half of them are All-Americans, thanks to Bailey, McNeer and Sims. All of them are three-time NCAA regional champions. The possibility of adding more accolades remains, as postseason hasn’t even started. Senior night marks the end of the Crimson Tide’s regular season.
By mid-meet, Sims expects the reality of it all to hit. The emotions range from excitement to bittersweet.
“I used to be in denial,” Sims said. “I think I’m ready. I’m a little ready because it’s been a long season, but I’m more prepared to just have fun with my team. I’m ready to just be there for my home school really and bring it home.”
For the six seniors, Friday starts and ends on the circle A.
Looking back, Patterson doesn’t remember ever having such a large class. It was unique. She remains grateful for the short time she did have with them and even called it an honor.
The feeling is mutual.
“We feel very honored to have been Sarah’s last class,” Bailey said. “But yeah, it is crazy to think: We’re the last one.”