This is certainly one way to close out the regular season.
On Friday, No. 11 Alabama gymnastics will face No. 1 Oklahoma from the Big 12 at the Lloyd Noble Center. The highest score in the nation so far was accomplished in this arena by the Sooners against a Southeastern Conference opponent.
“You know how they’ll say, ‘Oh, that team played to the level of their competition,’” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “I think that’s where a great team is different. Because no matter who they’re competing against, they’re not worried about or focused on the scores and the level of competition. They’re only focused on their performance.”
The Crimson Tide’s best performance yet came last week. Alabama posted a season-high 197.1, finally breaking that 197 barrier for the first time this year. It now has a 196.82 National Qualifying Score.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma knocked out its seventh 197-plus. The Sooners’ lowest total is a 197 on the dot. Their highest is a 198.325. They’ve hit 198 four times and own a 198.025 NQS.
“We’re going against the No. 1 team in the country, which if you want to be the best, compete against the best,” Duckworth said. “Own it. Believe it. Go with it.”
That mindset resonates throughout the team.
“We have nothing to lose,” UA junior Wynter Childers said. “I think that’s the attitude everybody has going into this meet. It’s like, well, might as well go for it.”
Oklahoma is ranked first on vault (49.54), balance beam (49.505) and uneven bars (49.555). It’s then third on floor exercise (49.55), which is actually Alabama’s best event. The Crimson Tide is sixth on floor (49.37), ninth on vault (49.2), 11th on bars (49.215) and 14th on beam (49.175).
Note how each of OU’s NQS is better than a 49.5, yet none of UA’s even make that mark. Oklahoma has had three gymnasts receive perfect 10s this season. Alabama hasn’t had any.
“The notoriety for a couple of the teams that are getting 10s and 9.95s constantly, I can’t control that,” Duckworth said. “What I know our ladies can control is our very best performance, and that’s where my mind is. I can’t go there to the other.
“I hope when we’re all on the same playing field, the outcomes will be based on the performances regardless of what leotard you wear or what your name is.”
No. 11 Alabama at No. 1 Oklahoma
When: Friday, 6:45 p.m.
Where: Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma
Records: Alabama 10-4, 5-3 SEC; Oklahoma 16-0, 3-0 Big 12
Both programs do have strong track records. One is just more recent than the other.
The Sooners won back-to-back national championships in 2016 and 2017. Their first title was in 2014. The Crimson Tide’s last title was in 2012, but it has six rings total.
So, as usual, Alabama is only concerned about Alabama.
“At the end of the day, you’re doing your gymnastics,” UA freshman Shallon Olsen said. “You’re focusing on what you’re doing and not what someone else is doing. Like you’re flipping for yourself. You’re not going to put all your time and energy into someone else who’s not even on your team.”