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A Meet to Remember

March 19, 2012
March 19, 2012

Table of Contents
March 19, 2012

GOLF PLUS
LEADING OFF
THE MAIL
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
  • As it starts its 17th season, MLS has become a hotbed for talented players from Latin America—especially Colombia, which has a long history with the U.S. game

  • Everyone wants to see the Suns move their point guard—except for Steve Nash, who's happy to keep things as they are

  • These five players were once can't-miss kids. They're still kids and (for the most part) still have a chance to bust out like the Royals' Alex Gordon did in 2011

NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW
PRO FOOTBALL
PRO HOCKEY
  • St. Louis has found its happy groove under coach Ken Hitchcock, who has taken his new club from unheralded to seemingly unbeatable

BASEBALL
ANTOINE WALKER
POINT AFTER
Departments

A Meet to Remember

Touched by last year's deadly tornadoes, gymnastics rivals Missouri and Alabama make a point of unity

When Sarah Patterson commutes from her home in Tuscaloosa to her office at Coleman Coliseum on the Alabama campus, she drives past blocks of damaged buildings, mounds of rubble and houses cleaved by downed trees. It has been nearly 11 months since an F-4 level tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa, narrowly missing the campus, but many areas still lie in ruins. "There are parts of town where it looks like the tornado just happened yesterday," says Patterson, the coach of the Crimson Tide women's gymnastics team, the defending national champions. "People need to know that things aren't back to normal yet."

This is an article from the March 19, 2012 issue

A few months ago Patterson came up with the idea to hold a tornado-relief meet with Missouri. When she called Tigers coach Rob Drass last September and suggested the two schools could honor tornado victims in Tuscaloosa and Joplin, Mo.—which a month after the Alabama tragedy was hit by the deadliest tornado in the U.S. in 64 years (161 died)—he quickly signed on. And so last Friday at Coleman, before the No. 14 ranked Tigers took to the mat against the No. 4 Tide, the two coaches stood with their teams as the lights dimmed, the 12,936 fans fell silent, and a two-minute tribute played on the scoreboard video screen, showing horrifying images from the two cities separated by 475 miles.

"None of us could believe that it could happen again when we saw the tornado hit Joplin," says Alabama junior Ashley Sledge (below), who had cowered in the basement of a campus building with students and faculty last April 27. "We know what those people went through. So this is more than a meet. It's about recognizing devastation and the work that still needs to be done."

A few minutes after the start of the meet Sledge took off down the vault runway. With Alabama governor Robert Bentley and Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox sitting nearby, she twisted in the air and stuck the landing, scoring 9.725. Alabama would defeat Missouri 197.175 to 195.375, but now Sledge's teammates swarmed her, smiling and patting her on the back of her black leotard, which was emblazoned with other numbers 4-27-11—the day that everything changed in T-Town.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

After being knocked unconscious on a play in a Belgian amateur soccer league match (suffering a concussion and three displaced vertebrae), midfielder Julien Lecomte was issued a yellow card for diving; then—because it was his second yellow of the game—given a red card while being carted off the pitch.

PHOTODAVID MOIR/REUTERSTWO PHOTOSAMELIA J. BRACKIN/UA ATHLETICS