After two rotations on Friday night, the University of Alabama gymnastics team found itself in a much closer competition against visiting Kentucky than expected.
However, No. 9 Alabama moved on from a middling performance on bars in the second rotation to close out with power on the beam and floor, pulling away to defeat the 12th-ranked Wildcats 197.200-196-650 at Coleman Coliseum.
The beam performance was particularly notable as Alabama all-arounder Lexi Graber pulled herself from the beam rotation due to a leg cramp. However, Alonza Klopfer gave the Crimson Tide a solid start with a 9.85 performance and, two gymnasts later, freshman Luisa Blanco gave the best Alabama bars performance of the year, the first 9.950 by UA on beam since Graber in the 2019 NCAA Regional finals.
“A lot of that bars performance was a big old thorn,” Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth said. “But to come back the way we did on beam and floor just shows the character of this team.
“I loved to see the way they all attacked the beam,” Duckworth said. “Alonza (Klopfer) had a beautiful routine to start us off. Shallon (Olsen) had a great routine. Then Luisa is such an exquisite beam worker and to see her get that (9.95) score just gave us such energy.”
That carried over onto the floor, where Alabama posted two more 9.950 marks by Blanco and Shea Mahoney.
“Our whole theme this week was team spirit,” Blanco said. “With all my girls at my side, it didn’t feel like pressure, it was just having fun out there.”
Individual apparatus winners in the meet were Kentucky’s Mollie Korth on vault (9.925), Korth and Shealyn Luksik of UK on bars (9.875 each), Blanco on beam and Blanco and Mahoney on floor.
Korth was the top all-arounder at 39.575. Alabama had no all-around performer as Graber removed herself from the beam before coming back with a 9.900 on floor.
Alabama will have its final home meet on March 7, hosting Georgia.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt