Gymnastics falls to Florida, earns season highs

Abby McCreary, Assistant Sports Editor

On a star-studded Friday night in Coleman Coliseum, Alabama gymnastics fans packed in to watch the No. 11 Crimson Tide challenge the No. 2 Florida Gators. 

“Friday nights are for the girls,” read a banner above the student section, and sure enough, every student seat was filled.  

“To see the crowd full in Coleman is a feeling like no other,” sophomore Lilly Hudson said.  

Although Alabama fell to Florida 197.325-196.450, head coach Ashley Johnston said that, besides a few errors, she was proud of her team’s performance. 

“Florida is an amazing team,” Johnston said. “I think we showed that we can hang with them. Outside of the falls, we would’ve been able to hold our own.” 

The Friday-night atmosphere in Coleman Coliseum affected both sides of the gym. The crowd danced along as Alabama (2-1) won the floor event and, at their first away meet of the season, the Florida Gators (5-0) saw their first meet without a perfect score.  

Florida’s Trinity Thomas competed in her first meet without a 10 but she still tied for the highest score in every event except the beam. After two perfect scores in last week’s meet, sophomore Leanne Wong also couldn’t repeat but still impressed the Crimson Tide crowd with her competition in the all-around.  

Although Coleman Coliseum was filled wall-to-wall with Olympians and world championship contenders, three new Crimson Tide faces made just as much of a buzz.  

Sania Mitchell, Shania Adams and Lauren Little all made their season debuts by kicking off the meet on vault. They replaced regulars Makarri Doggette, Shallon Olsen and Luisa Blanco.  

Johnston said Doggette and Olsen both experienced minor injuries this past week, and Blanco had “some trouble with her steps.” 

“It wasn’t worth the risk,” Johnston said of their absences. “It’s a long season and it’s a marathon not a sprint. We’re trying to keep them as healthy as we can, and it was a great opportunity to throw some new faces in instead.” 

In the second rotation, the bars, the Crimson Tide struggled with back-to-back falls. However, with a rowdy home crowd behind them, they bounced back to secure their season high event scores on the balance beam and floor routine.  

“I’m so proud of this team,” Hudson said. “Everyone who stepped in, owned their role, fought for every tenth in every routine.” 

In Alabama’s last event of the night, the crowd ignored the score deficit and stuck with every gymnast in her floor routine. Gabby Gladieux had an entire gym clapping with her as she earned a 9.900, and the rows rocked back and forth as Hudson secured a 9.925 during her Dixieland Delight routine.  

“When you have a student section that has your back, you feel it,” Gladieux said. “You feel that energy and it helps carry you.” 

Johnston said that the crowd has the power to play a huge role in the rest of the season.  

“It makes such a big difference to see all those people in the stands,” Johnston said. “It adds so much support, and I know our athletes felt it. Please continue to come out, fans. Our next meet is our Power of Pink match versus Auburn and it’s going to be a huge matchup. We’re going to need every single person there.” 

The meet against Auburn, where Johnston coached last year, will begin at 6:30 p.m. CT on Feb. 3. The matchup can also be watched on SEC Network. 

“This team fights for everything,” Gladieux said. “It’s only up from here.”  

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]