By Ryne Dennis
Athens Banner-Herald

ATHENS, Ga. — Alabama’s gymnastics team was steady throughout the night Friday, improving on season highs in every rotation to take a heart-stopping and extremely gratifying victory over Georgia, one of its longtime rivals.

The 17th-ranked Crimson Tide posted a season high 196.900 to No. 10 Georgia’s 196.875 to narrowly edge the Bulldogs and improve coach Dana Duckworth’s all-time record against Georgia to 12-1.

“The biggest thing was that I told our ladies coming in here to trust the process, it’s about you and your teammates,” Duckworth said. “Compete free and truly compete as one team. I believe they did every single one of those things.”

Lexi Graber posted a season high mark on the all-around (39.400) while setting a carer high on the balance beam (9.925) and tying a season high on the vault (9.875). She also notched scores of 9.850 on floor exercise and 9.750 on bars.

But on a night when Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum was rocking with 10,408 screaming fans, Graber wasn’t alone in consistency.

The Crimson Tide upgraded on its season-high scores across the four rotations and improved on its previous total all-around score of 196.175 set last week when it finished second to Denver in a quad meet in Coleman Coliseum.

“Every person owned their role,” Duckworth said. “I am ecstatic for the team that all the hard work really paid off and we got that kind of win in that kind of narrow margin.”

The two teams remained tight through two rotations, Georgia leading by just 0.025 at the midway point.

Freshman Emily Gaskins led the Crimson Tide with a 9.875 on the bars before freshman Shallon Olsen set a new personal best on the vault with a 9.90.

Georgia’s Sydney Snead matched Olsen’s 9.90 on the vault while Bulldog Alexa Al-Hameed posted a 9.925, a personal best for the Bulldog freshman, enough to give Georgia the slight advantage.

Alabama was able to gain ground in the third rotation when senior Ariana Guerra tied her career high of 9.925 on the floor exercise. Olsen added a 9.875 and the pair helped the Crimson Tide score 49.300 in the rotation while Georgia scored just 49.125 on balance beam despite Bulldog Sydney Snead’s 9.925.

Alabama was steady on the balance beam, posting a 49.200 with no falls.

Georgia tried its best to make up the points it lost on the beam, but the floor routines of Snead (9.925), Rachel Lukacs (9.900), Rachel Dickson (9.925) and Sabrina Vega (9.850) wasn’t enough to catch the Crimson Tide.

Snead won the all-around with a 39.600 while Dickson finished with a 38.850.

For Georgia, it was upbeat following the loss as it, too, had a season-best showing.

The Bulldogs’ all-around total bested their season high of 196.60 set in the season opener against Ohio State, and they also set rotational highs in every event but vault.

“The focus, it was easy to pick a focus, it’s Georgia and Alabama gymnastics,” Georgia coach Courtney Kupets Carter said. “The rivalry has been there, probably for a couple decades…that was really the intention going into the meet knowing they had to be aggressive in everything they do.”

The meet and location could well be a future meeting spot for the two rivals again in April when Stegeman Coliseum hosts an NCAA Regional.

That’s why Duckworth felt Friday night’s showing was so important for the Crimson Tide.

“That created a great environment for our ladies to learn how to handle that noise and that energy,” Duckworth said. “That’s going to be big, especially going into championship season.”

Uneven bars
Ari Guerra 9.8
Lexi Graber 9.75
Jensie Givens 9.8
Shea Mahoney 9.8
Kylie Dickson 9.85
Emily Gaskins 9.875
Emily Gaskins 9.8
Abby Armbrecht 9.85
Shea Mahoney 9.8
Ari Guerra 9.85
Shallon Olsen 9.9
Lexi Graber 9.875
Floor exercise
Maddie Desch 9.85
Tia Kiaku 9.675
Abby Armbrecht 9.8
Lexi Graber 9.85
Ari Guerra 9.925
Shallon Olsen 9.875
Balance beam
Alonza Klopfer 9.85
Maddie Desch 9.775
Shallon Olsen 9.775
Abby Armbrecht 9.725
Emily Gaskins 9.875
Lexi Graber 9.925