How Luisa Blanco led Alabama gymnastics to highest score since 2014 in tri-meet win

Mikey DiLullo
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama gymnastics recovered from the previous week's loss at Auburn with a tri-meet win over two ranked teams Friday night in Coleman Coliseum, with the ninth-ranked Crimson Tide's 197.875 score topping No. 25 North Carolina's 195.325 and No. 17 Western Michigan's 194.875.

Alabama (3-3) was led by junior Luisa Blanco, who posted three 9.9 scores on her way to claiming the all-around title, her first of the season. Alabama's score is its highest since March 2014, four months before Dana Duckworth was named Alabama's head coach.

"We talk all the time about how it takes one spark to start a fire," said Duckworth. "They did exactly what we wanted to do tonight."

Here's what we learned:

Three 9.9s for Blanco

Blanco started out the meet with a 9.9 on vault, and would only go up from there. On uneven parallel bars, she scored a 9.95, and followed that up with a second 9.95 on balance beam.

While she came up just short of four 9.9s after a 9.875 on the floor, it was still enough to clinch the all-around title.

Luisa Blanco smiles as she sticks her dismount from the bars in Coleman Coliseum Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Blanco scored 9.925 as Alabama defeated Kentucky 197.650 to 196.275

Fast start for Alabama

Opening on the vault, Alabama had Blanco, Shallon Olsen, Shania Adams and Mati Waligora all score a 9.9 or better, with one judge giving Adams a perfect 10. Freshman Jordyn Paradise also added a 9.85. This established an early lead for the Crimson Tide, one that the Tar Heels and Broncos would never seriously threaten.

NEW ARENA:What Alabama AD Greg Byrne said about new arena timeline, naming process and locations

Hudson's clutch routine

On the balance beam, Waligora fell, scoring 9.25. Freshman Lilly Hudson came up next and came through in the clutch to keep Waligora's score as the one dropped. Hudson put up a 9.9 on beam in just her fourth collegiate meet. It was the first of two 9.9 scores for the freshman, with the second coming on floor exercise.

"To go up after a fall, I just had to do my job," said Hudson.

ARENA GETS GREEN LIGHT:New Alabama arena, golf complex get green light for formal planning

What's next

Alabama hosts Georgia next week in the Power of Pink meet.