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

No one expected University of Alabama gymnast Katie Bailey to compete this season, not even the senior herself.

After Bailey underwent hip surgery, there was a huge question mark that loomed over her spot in the lineup. UA coach Dana Duckworth had to be careful. It didn’t matter that Bailey was an NCAA vault champion, SEC uneven bars champion and All-American – her well-being came first.

“If the doctor would have said, ‘Dana, this hip is not smart. Do not do gymnastics ever again,’ we would have had to do what was best for the athlete,” Duckworth said. “I was prepared for that.”

Those words, however, were never spoken.

Yet, with her final year of eligibility ahead of her, Bailey still wasn’t completely in the clear yet. During the fall, her preseason training was minimal. She was able to work out, as long as she paced herself.

Obviously Bailey wanted to compete, but she had to be patient and realistic.

“Dana and I were just hoping,” Bailey said. “She even told me, ‘If you can just get bars, we can use you on bars.’

“That’s all I was asking for.”’

Well, Bailey conquered the bars and landed her return.

An unexpected domino effect followed. Bailey started practicing on vault. Eventually, she added in floor exercise. At first Duckworth didn’t allow any leap passes – just to protect the hip – but that precaution was later lifted.

Although it was frustrating, Bailey had to take baby steps with her recovery.

“I knew that’s what my body needed,” she said. “I couldn’t have just jumped into it because I wouldn’t have made it very far into the season if I was doing everything at once.”

Once the season did roll around, Bailey was back for the most part. She has competed in every meet on vault and bars. Half the meets saw her also compete on floor.

Balance beam is the only apparatus Bailey hasn’t touched in competition. She’s currently working her way back on it in practice, but there’s no rush. Bailey is grateful just to be competing at all – let alone three events.

“She’s just been working hard, and I’ve been trying to be there for her,” fellow senior Aja Sims said.

Alabama’s resources made Bailey’s rehab as easy as possible physically, but she wouldn’t have been pull through mentally without her teammates. They helped her through the rough patches, and they’re the ones she’s going to miss most after graduating.

With senior night on Friday, Bailey will be recognized along with five others. Although this final year was less than orthodox, Bailey wouldn’t change a thing. She even called it perfect. In fact, all four years were.

When it comes down to it, Bailey isn’t ready to be done – at least not with gymnastics.

“My body thinks otherwise, but I don’t know,” Bailey said. “I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to let it go.”