No. 9 Alabama vs. No. 13 Auburn
When: Saturday at 7 p.m.
Where: Legacy Arena at The BJCC in Birmingham
Records: Alabama 9-4, 4-3 SEC; Auburn 7-2, 5-2 SEC
Alabama gymnastics just competed against Auburn last week in Coleman Coliseum. But the two in-state rivals are about to face off again. Only this time, the stakes — actually, the stage — are higher.
Saturday’s annual Elevate the Stage meet between the Crimson Tide and the Tigers is at The BJCC’s Legacy Arena in Birmingham, meaning Alabama going to get its first podium experience of the season.
“The technique stays the same,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “If anything, it’s just a matter of working with the podium and not against it.”
What podium basically means is the competition floor is raised. This gives the equipment a nicer feel and also raises each apparatus so fans can see better. Normally, a team doesn’t compete on podium until postseason since it’s reserved for neutral-site arenas rather than college campuses.
“You can ask any one of us on the team, we all love podium,” Alabama sophomore Kylie Dickson said. “It’s just a lot easier on our bodies.”
There’s not a huge difference between podium and Coleman Coliseum, but just enough that it’s noticeable.
The Crimson Tide had 20 minutes on all four events Friday to practice, along with a warmup period. During this time, Duckworth normally allows each gymnast to do what she needs to get comfortable. Some, especially those who competed as an elite, it’s as simple as throwing one routine. Others, it’s more so testing out the surface.
“Say you do a tumbling pass and you had so much energy you went flying,” UA freshman Emily Gaskins said. “Then you know, OK, I don’t have to work quite as hard on this, so let me calm down and just kind of go a little slower into it.”
Can’t change too much.
“We’ve been doing our stuff for so long, so we know our skills,” Gaskins said. “We know when we need to bring them down or bring them up. Really, if you just don’t overthink it — you don’t overthink like, ‘Oh, well, the floor is going to be bouncier and the vault is going to be bouncier’ — you just kind of naturally do it.”
Alabama is ranked ninth with a 196.78 National Qualifying Score. It’s sixth on floor (49.33), ninth on vault (49.18), 11th on bars (49.215) and 16th on beam (49.06). Auburn has a better ranking on just one event.
The Tigers are 13th in the nation with a 196.54 NQS. They’re seventh on bars (49.355), 11th on vault (49.145) and then 17th on both floor (49.14) and beam (49.04).
This is the fifth year UA and AU have done the Elevate the Stage meet.
“It’s so beautiful for the growth of our sport in the state of Alabama,” Duckworth said. “But also – and I know I say this a lot – for every little girl in the stands wanting to be an Alabama gymnast one day, it’s a beautiful opportunity for them to be in that environment and see what it’s all about.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.