'I could cry right now': Alabama gymnast Lexi Graber reflects on returning for 2nd senior season

Mikey DiLullo
The Tuscaloosa News

Last April, following her senior season, Alabama gymnast Lexi Graber had a decision to make. Due to the pandemic, the NCAA opted not to count athletic eligibility for the 2020-21 academic year. Despite graduating at the end of that semester, the 2021 All-American and floor exercise national champion had the choice to come back for one more season.

"It was really a long process, this decision," Graber said. "They made the decision that athletes could come back I think in September of 2020, and it was kind of from that day forward ... an everyday decision to make."

Ultimately, Graber decided to take advantage of the NCAA's decision and came back for her fifth season with the support of Alabama coach Dana Duckworth.

Alabama gymnast Lexi Graber performs on the beam in Coleman Coliseum Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Alabama defeated Missouri in the SEC meet.

"I had to weigh pros and cons, but it my opinion there were really no cons. I love it here. They can't get rid of me," Graber said. "In that moment when Dana asked me, it was the easiest decision of my life."

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Graber will compete Friday night as Alabama hosts Arkansas on senior night. After being honored before last season's senior night against Florida, this will be her second in as many years.

"I get emotional every week as it gets closer," Graber said. "I keep getting more and more emotional because it's getting real. I'm just so excited to be back out here one final time. For the fifth year in a row, this has been such a blessing. It's such a big part of my life. I could cry right now, but I'm just really excited."

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Alabama gymnastics (5-4, 3-3 SEC) hosts Arkansas (2-4, 0-3) on Friday in Coleman Coliseum. The meet starts at 7 p.m. CT and will be shown on SEC Network+.