Even a rock can crack.
“I didn’t expect to be that emotional,” Nickie Guerrero said. “I’m not a super emotional person when it comes to touchy feely type things. But I was shaking and they were shaking, which made me shake more.”
No. 8 Arkansas at No. 10 Alabama
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 2-2; Arkansas 1-3
TV: SEC Network+
On the night of Feb. 3, 2017, the Alabama gymnast stood in the middle of Coleman Coliseum with 14,423 fans in attendance. None of them were watching her. Instead, they were applauding the two women next to her on the circle “A.” One was on each side. Arms linked.
Guerrero’s aunt and grandmother stood with her to be honored as breast cancer survivors before Alabama’s annual Power of Pink meet.
Last year was a lot to handle. Friday is going to be even more considering who’s going to be by her side.
“It’s going to be a lot different, especially with my mom,” Guerrero said. “She’s probably going to be shaking and then I’m going to be shaking even more than last time. So it will be interesting, but I’m really excited for her to be able to do this.”
Guerrero’s mother, Barbara Rayner, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the middle of Alabama’s 2017 season. Thankfully, she was able to catch it right away and take the necessary treatment steps.
One of those first steps included telling her daughter’s coach so she know what was going on in their life.
“The one thing that I have been so impressed with is Barbara’s mindset toward her cancer,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “It’s just, ‘Here’s what I got to do. This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to fight. I’m going to battle.’ And she doesn’t complain. She doesn’t whine. She literally has been an incredible rock, and I think that’s been really great for Nickie to see.
“Really, Nickie’s personality is that way anyway to just, ‘My mom will be fine. It’s all good.’”
Like mother, like daughter.
Guerrero is a force to be reckoned with on the Crimson Tide. Her celebratory fist pump could easily knock someone out.
This season, the Texas native has posted high scores of a 9.95 on balance beam, 9.925 on vault and a 9.875 on the floor exercise. She has competed the three events in each of Alabama’s four meets. Her beam and vault marks are the highest on the team.
“She is such a rock,” junior Abby Armbrecht said. “Any time she goes up, especially on beam, I’m like, ‘This girl is going to hit.’ We know. We have so much confidence in her. Just her consistency is so, so inspiring. Like I strive for that consistency.”
Although Guerrero may not have faltered after the news about her mother, her team was there for her. She didn’t talk about it much and continued to train like there’s a championship on the line. She was just as strong as her mother.
The ones who care always know better.
“I will walk over and just kind of put my hand on her should, my hand on her back, and just be like, ‘How are you doing?’” Duckworth said. “But you have to know Nickie’s personality. She’s not going to jump out there and tell you what’s going on.”
Maybe not, but Guerrero will spread the word about early detection. She’s already staying on top of her health, knowing that it runs in her family. It’s scary, but knowing how to detect, prevent and treat it lessens the fear.
The Power of Pink and DCH Breast Cancer Fund, which started in 2004, raised more than $130,000 last fall, bringing the overall total to $1.9 million.
“It can happen to anyone,” Guerrero said. “I think I already knew that, but when it happened to my mom… You need to be aware.”