The fuse on a firecracker is short. It doesn’t take long for the explosion to take place. So stand back and enjoy the show.
Alabama freshman gymnast Lexi Graber’s fuse began burning long ago, but her flame has yet to extinguish.
“Her gymnastics really speaks for itself, that she really is little firecracker,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “She loves the sport of gymnastics. She’s the type of kid that would say: Can we train more?”
North Carolina at No. 6 Alabama
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 5-3; UNC 6-5
TV: SEC Network Plus
For a while, Graber couldn’t train. She underwent surgery back in October to remove a bone spur in her right ankle. That sidelined her for about three weeks – right as the team was preparing for the regular season to start in January – but needed to be done.
The spur was a constant source of pain. It bothered Graber as a club gymnast, but she thought the time off in between club and college would help. She was wrong.
As soon as the Crimson Tide started hard tumbling, the discomfort returned. Duckworth and the training staff suggested the removal.
“We went through all the pros and cons of it,” Graber said. “I told myself if I get the surgery now, I have to be ready to get back as soon as possible.”
On Jan. 5, Graber made her collegiate debut in Alabama’s season opener at Michigan, scoring a 9.775 on vault then a 9.875 on the balance beam.
Since then, the Cape Coral, Florida, native has competed in all but one meet – she sat out at LSU during Week 3 to rest a bone bruise sustained the week prior – and has slowly but surely moved her way into every lineup. She’s one of three UA gymnasts who have gone all-around this season.
“It is definitely a blessing to have the ability and the body – not the injuries – to be able to do all four events,” Graber said. “You (have to) to take advantage of it and do it while you can.”
Her season highs break down into a 9.9 on vault, beam and uneven bars. She has also posted a 9.825 on the floor exercise and a 39.125 all-around score.
Floor was the last event to be added. Graber did it for the first time against Kentucky two weeks ago at home in Coleman Coliseum. With upbeat music and a personalized routine, her spitfire attitude truly shows on this apparatus more than the others.
Or, as the rest of the team has dubbed it, her firecracker mentality.
“I remember calling her that when she first got here,” junior Ari Guerra said. “I was like, ‘She’s a little firecracker,’ and I guess it grew from there.
“You really do see that. It’s very incredible to watch her grow into the person she has grown into from the get-go.”
Duckworth not only plans to have Graber do floor again Friday against North Carolina but has upgraded her first tumbling pass. The double pike will now be a full-in, which is more difficult as an E-level skill.
“Light it,” Duckworth said. “It sparks, and you see beautiful colors and an awesome explosion of just greatness.”