NEW ORLEANS — The bar has been set.
Alabama gymnastics posted a season-high 197.35 during Session I of the 2019 SEC Championships at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. It was the highest score out of the afternoon teams, meaning the Crimson Tide has a chance to win the conference title. The evening portion (results here) will start at 7 p.m.
“I absolutely feel like they did the right thing at the right time, and we took care of business,” Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. “We got our season best, and it sets the tone for the evening session. That was our goal.”
Other teams in Session I and their scores were Arkansas with a 196.475, Auburn with a 196.375 and a 196.375.
The Crimson Tide began on vault, going in Olympic order as the top seed in this meet. UA sophomore Lexi Graber was the standout performance 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 Arkansas’ 49.275 to start things off.
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.
Alabama went to balance beam with a 0.05-point lead over the other teams and left the event 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 sophomore Maddie Desch led off with a 9.9, which junior Abby Armbrecht mirrored three routines later. Graber and Guerra closed things out with two 9.925s.
Right now, Graber has the top score on vault, beam and floor, along with the all-around competition (39.65). She’ll be up for an individual award if those stand through the second quad meet. Guerra ties Graber for floor.
A new story will be posted after Session II, which the Crimson Tide will watch from the stands.
“I said to everybody, we’re going to sit in the stands and we are not going to compare ourselves to others,” Duckworth said. “Nor see an outcome and say I can’t believe our team go this. None of that. Coaches aren’t going to do it. We’re not going to do it.
“We’re going to use this opportunity to say, what are they doing that we aren’t or are doing? Not comparing ourselves. But how can we get better by watching this session?”