Gymnastics to compete in first quad meet, challenge three top-25 teams

Abby McCreary, Assistant Sports Editor

After bringing down the top gymnastics program in the state, Alabama gymnastics turns its attention to the top programs in the nation this weekend in Fort Worth, Texas. 

The No. 11 Crimson Tide will come head-to-head with No. 1 Oklahoma, as well as No. 16 Arkansas and No. 24 Stanford, in the Metroplex Challenge, its first quad meet of the season.  

Head coach Ashley Johnston said that the competition is the perfect next step to continue improving throughout the season.  

“This Saturday will be great preparation for us to see what it’s going to look like in the postseason,” Johnston said. “To have a meet with four teams, to be up on podium, there’s going to be a lot of different challenges we’ll need to step into this week. It’s going to be important for our group to embrace that, to step into those things.” 

After its thrilling victory over Auburn last Friday, Alabama is in good shape to travel and meet even greater competition. In its last meet, the Crimson Tide had incredible scores on the beam and floor — including a 10 on the beam from senior Luisa Blanco and the highest team floor score in program history — but senior Mati Waligora said the team is looking ahead, not behind.  

“I think we’re just focusing on the little things: getting back in the gym and honing in on the little details, not trying to recreate something,” Waligora said. “Just honing in on the details is what’s ultimately going to make us successful at this meet.”  

Although the Metroplex Challenge will feature some of the best programs in the nation, the headliner is undoubtedly Oklahomah. The Sooners are the 2022 National Champions and have stayed at No. 1 every week of the season. Oklahoma gymnasts took home all three of the Big 12 Conference’s honors last week — the third time this season. The Sooners are also the only team in the nation with back-to-back scores past the 198 mark.  

To say Oklahoma is on a roll is an understatement, but Alabama is hoping to carry a little bit of its own energy into Saturday’s competition.  

“The momentum comes from identifying the little areas that we can continue to grow in. For me, that’s exciting,” Johnston said. “When I look at Friday night, there were so many great things, but as a coach, I know there are so many things that we can continue to be better at, that I see them do in practice every single day.” 

The Crimson Tide will also face Stanford and Arkansas, who they defeated earlier this season at its first away meet. Although the meet was spotted with falls and stumbles, Alabama has since improved its road performance, and this Saturday will hopefully serve as evidence of the Crimson Tide’s progress.  

“It’s about getting 1% better every day,” freshman Gabby Gladieux said. “It’s about progress, not about perfection at this point, so focusing on those small details is really going to help.” 

The Metroplex Challenge will follow postseason format and begin at 7:15 p.m. CT on Saturday, Feb. 11, with Alabama on the uneven bars, then balance beam, floor exercise and vault. 

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