TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama didn’t win its own NCAA regional, but the Crimson Tide gymnastics team did enough to “survive and advance,” as they say this time of year.
After a stellar first three rotations by second-seeded Oklahoma, the meet came down to whether No. 7 Alabama could hold on to second and move on to the national semifinals in Fort Worth, Texas.
Dana Duckworth's team did, holding off a surprise Missouri squad that at the time was ahead of struggling Arkansas (147.525 to 147.35).
With the Crimson Tide closing on vault, and the Tigers on balance beam, the final rotation featured little drama. Missouri ended up falling all the way to fourth.
On the vault, junior/Canadian Olympian Shallon Olsen scored a 9.9, as did sophomore Luisa Blanco. For the fourth rotation, Alabama notched a 49.375 while Mizzou netted 49.025. Arkansas passed Mizzou for third with a final tally of 196.7, but the Razorbacks failed to advance as well.
That was good enough for Alabama’s season to continue with a team score of 197.575. Oklahoma posted a 198.175 to clinch the regional title.
“Half this team has never experienced the postseason," Duckworth said. "It’s going to me as much competitive or more as we go to the national championships.
“It’s an honor to move on. You never, ever take it for granted. This team has fight in them. They’re mentally tough and they love each other. We continue to show ‘fierce greatness.’”
Blanco added, “I saw the definition of grit and I think we saw grace."
In the first rotation, freshman Shania Adams led the Crimson Tide on the uneven bars with a 9.975 and garnered a 10 from one judge. Alabama posted an even t score 49.625
Despite a perfect 10 on vault by junior Olivia Trautman, Oklahoma was second after one event with a 49.45.
The meet turned on the usual event, beam.
“She weebled and she wobbled but she didn’t fall down” would be one way to describe the Crimson Tide’s performance in the second rotation. A 9.875 by Blanco was the top score and 49.15 the team result.
Meanwhile, the Sooners nailed enough bars routines to score a 49.575 and pull ahead for good at 98.775.
Rotation three saw Alabama on floor exercise while the Sooners took to the beam. Blanco again topped Alabama with a 9.95. Crimson Tide junior Griffin James danced to symphony music and was rewarded with a 9.9.
“Dixieland Delight” and “”Sweet Home Alabama” were part of Emily Gaskins’ routine music and the junior helped keep Alabama in it with a 9.925 on the event.
However, Oklahoma was feeling it on beam, scoring 49.575, and after three rotations the Sooners held a strong lead of 148.6 to 148.2.
The two two teams in each regional head to nationals April 16-17. Only two teams in each semifinal will compete in the finals for the national title.
No. 6 Utah won the Salt Lake City Regional, while No. 3 LSU had to rally to advance.
On the other side of the bracket, No. 1 Florida and No. 8 Minnesota advanced out of the Athens Regional. No. 4 Michigan won the Morgantown Regional, with No. 5 Cal also advancing.
“I’m super excited for us to go and do even better in Texas,” Gaskins said. “Our team is trained for this.”
1 Oklahoma 198.175
2 Alabama 197.575
3 Arkansas 196.700
4 Missouri 196.550
Vault: Olivia Trautman, Oklahoma 10.000
Uneven Parallel Bars: Shania Adams, Alabama 9.975
Balance Beam: Anastasia Webb, Oklahoma 9.975
Floor Exercise: Luisa Blanco, Alabama 9.950
All Around: Anastasia Webb, Oklahoma 39.700