Who: No. 6 Michigan, Denver, Bowling Green at No. 18 Alabama
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 3-0, Michigan 3-0, Denver 0-0, Bowling Green 0-0
Not a moment goes by at an Alabama gymnastics meet where there is complete silence. Even if the sound system is turned off, there’s going to be noise. Most of it comes from the team itself.
The Crimson Tide makes an audible effort to constantly support to its members.
“Coming from club, I never knew how important it is to have your team,” UA freshman Jensie Givens said. “It’s super neat having them right on the sidelines, cheering you on, all saying these encouraging things to keep your positivity going.”
Seven of the 17 Alabama gymnasts are new this season. There are six freshmen: Givens, Asia DeWalt, Emily Gaskins, Griffin James, Sania Mitchell and Shallon Olsen. The other newbie is Tia Kiaku, a sophomore who transferred from Ball State.
All of them got their first taste of true Alabama gymnastics last week during the team’s season opener at home in Coleman Coliseum. They’ll get another Friday when Michigan, Denver and Bowling Green come to Tuscaloosa.
“There were no deer-in-the-headlight looks,” Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. “Everyone was really comfortable with just their position, their role and where they were. They really focused on putting their energy into the athlete that was on the event.”
Three of those gymnasts were one of their own, too.
Givens, Gaskins and Olsen all made their career debuts during Alabama’s first quad meet. Gaskins competed on three events, scoring a 9.75 on the vault, a 9.875 on the uneven bars and a 9.675 on the balance beam. Olsen posted a 9.875 on vault. Givens added a 8.925 on beam.
“I feel like I can relate because I know the nerves kind of get to you,” said UA junior Wynter Childers, who also started as a freshman. “But we’ve done this our whole lives. This has been our job since we were 5 years old. So it’s kind of like, ‘You can do it.’
“I know that for me, I can help them and reiterate to them that they are ready and they can do everything that they were brought here for.”
And that was to represent UA.
Duckworth recruited each of these gymnasts for a reason: They have potential. She wants them to be able to contribute as soon as possible. But some are ready sooner than others.
“We have done a lot of pressure sets inside our preparation all through the fall, especially after we got back from the new year,” Duckworth said. “So you’re looking for those competitors that under the big lights will shine and execute at their very, very best. It makes sense that Shallon and Emily really thrived because they’ve been on the big scene before.”
Olsen was a vault silver medalist at the 2018 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championship, just behind Olympian Simone Biles. Gaskins was a three-time member of the U.S. national team and the Region 5 Athlete of the Year.
Then, what really impressed Duckworth about Givens was her consistency.
“It’s not personal anymore,” Givens said. “I don’t do gymnastics anymore for myself. I do gymnastics for this team, and I do it for Alabama.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229