After last year’s NCAA Championships, Alabama gymnastics coach Dana Duckworth read “The Power of Who” by Bob Beaudine. The book is about how a person can find a job through people he or she already knows, and it dawned on Duckworth that the same can be said about her team and finding success.
So, the Crimson Tide’s 2018 motto, the Power of One, was born early.
“For me, the Power of One means I have an audience of one and I don’t care what anybody thinks, anybody says; I do what I do every day for my Power of One,” Duckworth said. “But it also means that one person can light the match and just catch everybody on fire for success.”
One mission. One goal. One uniform.
Last year, that goal wasn’t accomplished. Alabama won seven of its 11 regular-season meets, placed third at SEC Championships and ultimately finished sixth in the nation.
“That’s not how we wanted it to end,” Alabama senior Mackenzie Brannan said. “We wanted to come to this university and be a part of this program to be able to vie for championships. So you want to have your best meet on that last night, and so I think that is a motivating factor.
“But it’s not something we can focus on too much. We have to focus on right here and right now.”
And that’s what the Crimson Tide has been doing.
Work ethic and group effort were the first things Alabama freshman Lexi Graber noticed when she joined the team. There’s consistency across the board.
“They’re focusing a lot on our team chemistry and each person,” she said. “We’re all one. We’re all going to the same place. We all have the same goal.”
Six gymnasts graduated after last season, including two-time individual national champion Katie Bailey. There are four freshmen, four sophomores, three juniors and four seniors on this year’s team. No one has been ruled out for the season due to injuries or other reasons.
Former Florida gymnast and current Alabama redshirt sophomore Peyton Ernst, who sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules, can now compete for the Crimson Tide. Junior Angelina Giancroce is also back after missing last season with a torn Achilles.
“In general we’re confident in where we are right now, but everybody knows what they need to do to move forward,” Duckworth said. “There’s a great deal of ownership in everyone’s responsibility to get better.”
That started with the coaches. They came up with a schedule that allowed the team to start preparing for the season earlier than usual.
Alabama’s first meet is Friday at Michigan. The Crimson Tide then returns to Coleman Coliseum the following week to host Georgia and open up its home slate. There are six regular-season home meets, and Alabama will also host an NCAA regional on April 7.
The Crimson Tide’s annual Power of Pink meet will be against Arkansas on Feb. 2. Alumni weekend, which will honor the 30th anniversary of the first Alabama gymnastics national championship team, is set for Feb. 16 against Kentucky.
“One at a time,” UA freshman Alonza Klopfer said. “Think about where we’re starting and then keep going from there – not looking all the way up at the hill. Just look at where you’re stepping next, and that’ll get us to where we want to be later in the season.”
At the top of the hill is Oklahoma, back-to-back reigning national champion and this preseason’s first-ranked team.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re competing against,” Duckworth said. “We’re really only competing against ourselves.”
Alabama was voted No. 4 in the same preseason poll.
Here’s what Duckworth expects: Balance beam will stand out from the start; so will floor exercise since it features all new routines; there is the potential of six 10.0 vaults, but they’re not quite there yet. And after losing four 9.95 bar routines from last year’s seniors, this team will need to work hard to get back to where it knows it can be on the uneven bars.
With all that, Alabama is confident it can reach its goals through the Power of One.
“We strive for team,” Klopfer said. “Individual comes after.”