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Alabama Gymnastics prepares for the SEC Championships



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AU_GymUA009The Alabama Gymnastics team has capped off the regular season and headed to Birmingham this weekend to compete in the SEC Championships.  Going into the Championship meet the Crimson Tide maintains its No.4 ranking which it has held for several weeks this season and with a pair of SEC honors following the win over rival Auburn last Friday. The Crimson Tide defeated No. 11 Auburn in Coleman Coliseum Friday on Senior Night, 197.925-196.175, in front of a 13,089 fans.

The impressive win over the Tigers came largely with the help of junior Kaitlyn Clark who earned the SEC Specialist of the week with her score of a perfect 10.0 on the balance beam to bolster her team to a 49.650 event total, the second highest in school history.  Clark is only the sixth gymnast in school history to earn a 10.0 on the beam and the third Alabama gymnast to earn the SEC Specialist of the Week honor on the season.  “I just tried to stay in my rhythm and in my calm, Zen zone,” Clark said. “I struggle with that. After I landed, I knew it was a pretty good beam routine and I was just really excited to help my team out.”AU_GymUA011

Clark was not alone with her top SEC honors for the week as freshman Katie Bailey earned the top spot for SEC Freshman of the Week for the fourth time this season.  Alabama has been recognized five times in this category over the season with Aja Sims being the only other gymnast to earn the award on Feb. 18.  Bailey tied her career-best of 9.875 on the floor exercise which gave her enough to post a career-best 39.400 against Auburn.  As the Crimson Tide heads into this weekend’s championship meet, Bailey ranked 20th in the nation in the all-around leads the Tide in both all-around appearances and routines in the competitive lineup.

“Our balance beam performance was one of the best I’ve seen,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “That’s where we are going to start at the SEC Championships so you definitely want to go out on the that note and close the regular season performing like that.”

AU_GymUA006On Saturday Alabama, the number three seed in the Championships, will compete against Florida, LSU, and Georgia. Florida is the number one seed, while LSU and Georgia are the number two and four seeds respectively.  These schools are not only SEC rivals but all four schools in the Session two event make up four of the top six in the NCAA rankings.  Alabama defeated Florida (No. 1) and Georgia (No.6) earlier in the regular season but dropped to LSU (No. 2) in Baton Rouge. Oklahoma (No. 3) and Utah (No. 5) round out the top six nationally.

Session one of the SEC Championships start at 2PM (CST) on Saturday where Auburn, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri will AU_GymUA018compete against each other followed by Session two at 6PM (CST).  The lower bowl of the BJCC is already sold out where it seats 5,635 with capacity in the upper level at 9,396.  The national rankings seems to have driven the crowds to the arena for the Championship. “With LSU, Florida, Alabama and Georgia all currently ranked in the Top 10 nationally, and Auburn right behind at number 11, the SEC Gymnastics Championship is sure to be an exciting competition.” Gene Hallman, executive director of the Alabama Sports Foundation, said last week.

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