Blanco and Hudson shine in gymnastics’ win over Auburn

Abby McCreary, Assistant Sports Editor

The Iron Bowl. It brings out the best in all of us.  

On a very pink Friday night in Coleman Coliseum, the No. 11 Alabama gymnastics team brought down the No. 6 Auburn Tigers in a thrilling Power of Pink meet, 197.850-197.700. 

Head coach Ashley Johnston said she couldn’t be prouder of her team.  

“[This team] continues to put the work in, they continue to fight, and that’s what this night was all about,” Johnston said. “It being the Power of Pink meet, it’s about continuing to fight even when the going gets tough.” 

Although the Crimson Tide began the meet with two falls in the first two rotations, Alabama ended with its highest floor score in program history, a 49.700, with all five scores totaling 9.900 or higher. All five of those gymnasts either tied or set their career best scores with their floor routines. 

Senior Luisa Blanco tied three of her career bests — including a 10 on the balance beam —  during the meet; she said the crowd had a huge impact.  

“The energy was indescribable,” Blanco said. “Just to see the work we put into the gym every day finally translate was amazing. It was truly a core memory and I’ll remember it forever.” 

As the anchor of many of the rotations, Blanco came head-to-head with Auburn anchor and Tokyo Olympian Sunisa Lee. Lee had fans from both sides of the state rooting her on throughout the night. Her 10 on the uneven bars — the event in which she won the bronze medal at the Olympics — wowed the crowd. The perfect score helped Auburn to a slight lead over Alabama in both of the first two rotations. 

Johnston said that the falls in the beginning of the meet were unfortunate, but she was more focused on how her team bounced back from them. 

“[They] started the meet with a little bit of a mistake, little bit of a hiccup, and [did] not let that affect them,” Johnston said. “I’m just so proud of the way they rallied. They stayed invested in the moment and continued to get better. They started with their lowest score and then just continued to build.”  

The third rotation, when the Crimson Tide was on the beam, was where the Crimson Tide truly started to lock in. Three scores were above 9.900, including Blanco’s 10. Sophomore Lilly Hudson earned a 10 from one of the judges, giving her a 9.975, her career best. Alabama narrowed Auburn’s lead to a mere .050 heading into the final rotation of the night and crowd favorite: the floor routine.  

The Crimson Tide did not disappoint the sold-out and pinked-out Coleman Coliseum.  

Each Alabama gymnast started off strong and kept growing stronger. Hudson’s phenomenal routine, featuring “Dixieland Delight,” had the crowd chanting for a 10, interrupting Lee as she was about to begin her beam routine. 

“I looked up during my floor routine and just thought ‘Wow,’” Hudson said. “Coleman is full. It just means the world to us, to see everybody in here.” 

Hudson’s 9.975 earned another roar of approval from the crowd, but it didn’t prevent Lee from accomplishing her second perfect score of the night.  

At the sight of the 10, the crowd erupted, this time in the midst of Blanco’s routine, the final of the meet.  

Nothing, though, could compare to the explosion of cheers, chants and shaking shakers after Blanco’s 9.975 gave Alabama its first lead of the night and the only lead that mattered.  

With Blanco’s score rounding out Alabama’s highest floor score in program history, the Crimson Tide won the Iron Bowl of gymnastics.  

Blanco said that she didn’t know what score she needed to win the meet, she just went out and competed.  

“I knew that I had the reps,” Blanco said. “It wasn’t whether or not I knew the score, it was just trusting my training.” 

Multiple perfect scores. Even more career bests. One unforgettable night.  

Next weekend, Alabama gymnastics will take a break from dual meets and head to the Metroplex Challenge where they will take on several of the nation’s best programs, including No. 1 University of Oklahoma.  

Johnston said that a night like tonight is the perfect preparation. 

“These types of matches prepare you for championship season,” said Johnston, already looking forward to the next challenge.