NEW ORLEANS — Alabama gymnastics set the bar at the 2019 SEC Championships. It posted the best afternoon score in the Smoothie King Center with a 197.35, a season high for the Crimson Tide. Then the team had to sit and wait.
There was nothing else Alabama could do as four teams — four higher-seeded teams — competed in the evening meet.
“The whole mission of this weekend — and it wasn’t really a joke — was we are on a business trip, we have a job to do,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said. “One was to have the best performance of the season so far. Check mark, we accomplished that. The other thing was to be so competitive we did make it a challenge for the evening session in a sense that by having a performance like that, it puts the pressure on other people.”
Another check mark. No. 5-seed Alabama finished third out of eight teams overall. It beat the three other competitors in Session I, then two more from Session II.
Two evening teams did overcome the pressure. No. 1-seed LSU posted a 197.9 to win its third-consecutive SEC title. No. 2-seed Florida finished second with a 197.75.
Georgia (197), Arkansas (196.475), Auburn (196.375), Kentucky (196.225) and Missouri (195.9) then followed Alabama in order.
“We kept saying, ‘Make them look. Make them want to watch,’” Duckworth said. “That’s something the ladies did a really good job.”
Going in Olympic order, the Crimson Tide began on vault. UA sophomore Lexi Graber was the standout performer in the anchor spot, putting up a 9.9. As a team, Alabama closed out the rotation with a 49.225, which put it in second to start things off.
It didn’t take long for Alabama to steal the lead and build on it.
On the uneven bars, the Crimson Tide used a 49.2 to pull ahead even with a fall from UA senior Ariana Guerra. A pair of 9.875s from Graber and Alabama junior Shea Mahoney paced the way.
“They stayed in that bubble,” Duckworth said. “They stayed in that ability to trust themselves, even after the break on bars. It was just one second, and they moved on.”
On to balance beam with a 0.05-point lead over the other teams and off of beam with a 0.55 advantage. That was all due to the Crimson Tide’s season-high 49.45 on the event. Once again, Graber had the best mark with a 9.95 that featured a 10 from one of the four judges. UA freshman Shallon Olsen had a 9.925 that helped, too.
If beam looked good, the Crimson Tide looked even better on the floor exercise. It didn’t manage another season high but did knock out a 49.475 that consisted of four scores of 9.9 or better. Alabama junior Maddie Desch led off with a 9.9, which senior Abby Armbrecht mirrored three routines later. Graber and Guerra closed things out with two 9.925s.
“We wanted to be able to say we could make noise from the afternoon session, and we did it,” Duckworth said. “They did it. I’m happy for what they accomplished, but it’s not over. We have so much more ahead of us.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.
Maddie Desch, 9.75
Abby Armbrecht, 9.85
Shea Mahoney, 9.75
Emily Gaskins, 9.85
Shallon Olsen, 9.875
Lexi Graber, 9.9
Kylie Dickson, 9.85
Lexi Graber, 9.875
Wynter Childers, 9.8
Ariana Guerra, 9.0
Shea Mahoney, 9.875
Emily Gaskins, 9.8
Alonza Klopfer, 9.85
Shallon Olsen, 9.925
Wynter Childers, 9.85
Abby Armbrecht, 9.8
Emily Gaskins, 9.875
Lexi Graber, 9.95
Maddie Desch, 9.9
Shallon Olsen, 9.825
Shea Mahoney, 9.825
Abby Armbrecht, 9.9
Lexi Graber, 9.925
Ariana Guerra, 9.925