No. 12 Auburn at No. 8 Alabama
When: Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 8-4, 3-3 SEC; Auburn 7-1, 5-1 SEC
TV: SEC Network
The sports world is about to get a double dose of Alabama-Auburn gymnastics.
On Friday, the two in-state programs will compete in the first of back-to-back meets. Alabama hosts Auburn this week, and then both teams hit Birmingham for their annual Elevate the Stage meet next week. But one at a time.
“It’s a long, long-lasting Iron Bowl kind of rivalry, it just happens to be in gymnastics,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “Looking forward to having a great competitor come into our house and not focus on the competitor.”
There’s a pair of familiar faces on the Tigers’ 2019 staff, though.
Ashley Priess-Johnston is an Auburn assistant coach and a former Alabama gymnast. She competed for the Crimson Tide from 2009-13, finishing out her career as a 10-time All-American, a two-time SEC champion and at a two-time NCAA champion.
Bryan Raschilla is an Auburn volunteer assistant coach and a former Alabama associate head coach. He coached the Crimson Tide for 22 years, helping UA win three NCAA championships and six SEC championships.
This will be the first time Raschilla returns to Coleman Coliseum since his Alabama contract was not renewed at the end of the 2018 season.
“I have really just focused on Alabama moving forward,” Duckworth said. “So I want to see both programs be successful.”
Duckworth chose Ryan Roberts to fill the void. Prior to Alabama, Robert spent five years with the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy. He had elite experience rather than collegiate.
“Oh, such a great addition to our family,” Duckworth said. “When I look at what our focus and our mission, the attention to detail, the gifts, the treasures and the talents that he brings to the program, it’s just been a really nice chemistry. It’s been a refreshing perspective.”
Alabama is back up to No. 8, its highest ranking this season, with a 196.735 National Qualifying Score. Auburn is No. 12, one spot below its season best, with a 196.425 NQS.
The teams have a had similar run. Both started out low in week 1’s rankings — AU in 17th, UA in 18th — and have climbed their way closer to the top. The Crimson Tide’s season high is a 196.9, while the Tigers have managed to break 197 with a season-best 197.1.
Alabama’s NQS is ranked higher on every event besides uneven bars, where it is 11th (49.19) and Auburn is sixth (49.35). UA is then sixth on floor exercise (49.285), ninth on vault (49.16) and 15th on balance beam (49.06). AU is 12th on vault (49.11) and 18th on both beam (48.99) and floor (49.105).
“I want them to do what they’re capable of,” Duckworth said. “That’s what will be successful no matter who is in the building.”
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.