Gymnastics competes in annual Power of Pink match Friday night

Abby McCreary, Assistant Sports Editor

A sold-out Coleman Coliseum. An expanded student section. The 19th annual Power of Pink Match. An in-state rivalry. And Alabama gymnastics’ head coach Ashley Johnston’s first time going up against her former school.  

It will be a Tuscaloosa Friday night to remember. 

“It’s Auburn,” graduate student Sania Mitchell said. “We say it’s the Iron Bowl of gymnastics — it’s Auburn hate week. It’s always just a fun meet.” 

For Johnston, she’ll coach against many of the gymnasts she has trained and worked with over the years, but she said that the biggest source of emotion for her is coaching a Power of Pink meet.  

“I remember going out there as an athlete and seeing the seats packed with those pink shakers, and there’s just nothing like it,” Johnston said. “Using gymnastics as a platform to make a bigger change in this world is such an important lesson for our ladies to learn. By doing gymnastics, they are sparking hope and belief in so many other people, and it’s just an amazing night to be a part of.” 

In this year’s Power of Pink meet, No. 11 Alabama (2-2, SEC 1-2) will challenge No. 6 Auburn (3-3, SEC 1-1) after losing to the Tigers last year in Auburn.   

Although Auburn has been consistently scoring above 197 all season, Alabama recently hit the mark as well with a 197.375 last week against Kentucky. 

Senior Makarri Doggette, who earned a perfect score on the uneven bars in that meet, said the score came at the perfect time. 

“Getting into that 197 range, I think we’re progressing at just the right time,” Doggette said. “Everybody’s put their full confidence into each other and that obviously helps. We’re a very close team and we want the best for everybody, and once you feel that within yourself, you perform better.” 

Breast cancer survivors will have front-row seats as the in-state rivals battle it out in the gym, and with pink shakers in every seat, the meet is bound to be a memorable one.  

Despite the high emotions and excitement surrounding the match-up, Mitchell said the team is trying its best to stay focused and make it a great meet for everybody. 

“Because it is the Power of Pink meet, this meet is very special,” Mitchell said. “But at the same time, we still have to compete in a gymnastics meet. Just taking everything for what it is, staying in the moment, and getting out there and handling our business.”  

As the former associate head coach of the Tigers, Johnston will have a lot of familiar faces in Coleman Coliseum. One gymnast, though, will be familiar to anyone interested in gymnastics, whether they know the difference between a front walkover and a front handspring or not. 

Auburn sophomore Sunisa Lee, who became a household name after her performance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, will likely be in the starting lineup against the Crimson Tide.  

Johnston said that the key to competing against Lee is to treat her like any other competition. 

“[Suni] is just like any other athlete,” Johnston said. “Every single athlete faces the same obstacles, gets nervous, feels expectations, wants to be the best. They want to be the best for both themselves and the team. We can’t get distracted by any individual athlete as we approach a competition. We are all on the same playing field, we all start at a 10.0. Nobody is immune to that.” 

For Doggette, she said the “Iron Bowl of gymnastics” is a great reminder of what it means to compete for the Alabama Crimson Tide.  

“Wearing the Script A is a part of who we are and what we want to embrace in ourselves,” Doggette said. “We’ve always said that Alabama is so much bigger than we can even think. We were those little girls looking up to those people competing in the SEC and now that it’s us, it’s hard to believe.” 

Every seat will be filled and pinked out for Friday’s rivalry against Johnston’s former home team, but the head coach said she’s mainly focused on winning, in every aspect.  

“I don’t just mean winning the meet; I mean winning the moment, the approach, the next step forward,” Johnston said. “Those are the things helping us stay committed to the process so that we can get to the result that we want.”  

The first rotation will begin Friday, Feb. 3, at 6:30 p.m. CT, and the match will air on SEC Network. 

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