The good news for No. 6 Alabama gymnastics: they are 4-0 halfway through the regular season. The bad news for Alabama gymnastics: those four wins came against the three lowest ranked teams in the conference (Kentucky twice, Auburn and Missouri.)
In a non-Covid season, Alabama gymnastics would have 11 regular season meets against both conference and non-conference opponents. Because of SEC regulations, the regular season this year is a conference-only slate like football and volleyball.
The Crimson Tide is coming off a bye weekend heading into this Friday's meet at No. 13 Georgia to kick off the back half of the schedule. Then they host No. 2 LSU before traveling to No. 5 Arkansas. Alabama will close out the regular season by welcoming the top ranked team in the country, the Florida Gators.
Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said the bye week provided by both physical and mental rest. It also gave her the chance to watch videos to see where the team has come from and the potential they have moving forward.
"I feel like as we go into this back half of the season, our ladies know what they're capable of," Duckworth said. "And we are going to continue to fight on every single minute detail, but by really staying focused on only what we have to do this week, nothing else."
Wins and losses do not hold as much weight in gymnastics as they do in other sports. What is most valued (and what determines the rankings) is overall team scores.
However, wins and losses do determine the regular season SEC Champion. Even though the gymnasts have gotten out to a solid start, Alabama will have to compete at a much higher standard to knock off teams like Florida and LSU to win the SEC regular season crown.
So far Alabama is sixth nationally in average score, but because of the inconsistencies from event to event each week, Alabama is 11th in highest overall score. The team has yet to cross the 197 scoring threshold at any one meet with the highest score being 196.925 against Auburn.
The main reason Alabama has yet to hit a score in the 197 range is because there has not been a meet where they have hit 24 for 24 routines. A "hit routine" according to Duckworth is a routine with very minor errors and a stuck dismount.
"We've had a best event almost every single meet, it's just been a different event, each week," Duckworth said. "I think that we know we're capable of putting it all together."
Between the talent of gymnasts like Makarri Doggette, Luisa Blanco and Shania Adams and the experience of gymnasts like Lexi Graber, Alonza Klopfer and Shallon Olsen among others, Alabama definitely has the capability of hitting 24 routines and producing a big team score that puts them on a competitive level with any team in the nation.
The challenge is putting together all 24 routines on the same night. Alabama's highest scores so far on each event are 49.250 on vault, 49.425 on bars and beam, and 49.275 on floor.
The MVP for the first half of the season is Adams. As a freshman, she is the only Alabama gymnast who has competed the all around in every meet of the season. She was named SEC Freshman of the week after her all around 49.475 performance against Missouri.
Doggette has also been recognized for the conference for her performance, twice winning SEC Specialist of the week for her work on the uneven bars. Doggette has won the bars competition in all four meets and is seventh in the country on the apparatus.
Senior Klopfer has been a rock in beam lineup starting in the leadoff position each week. She scored a career high 9.9 in back-to-back meets.
Graber, the only other senior on the roster, will be returning to action against Georgia after two weeks of rest following a car accident. Graber has the ability to contribute high scores for the Crimson Tide on all four events.
In order to finish the season the same way it started, with four straight wins, Alabama will have to elevate its performance to match the competition level. That all starts this Friday night with a road meet against tradition rival Georgia.