Gymnastics goes toe-to-toe with No. 1 Oklahoma

Abby McCreary, Assistant Sports Editor

Surrounded by some of the best programs in the country, Alabama gymnastics rose to the challenge Saturday night in Fort Worth, Texas.  

Neck-and-neck with No. 1 Oklahoma in every rotation of the Metroplex Challenge, the No. 11 Crimson Tide fell to the Sooners in its final event: the vault. The loss came from no lack of effort, though. The 49.525 vault score was a season high and helped Alabama to a total score of 198.000, another season high and just .125 short of the Sooners’ first-place finish. 

“We didn’t really care about the outcome, we just wanted to win the moment,” head coach Ashley Johnston said. “This team definitely won the moment tonight.” 

The Crimson Tide ended the night in second place, beating No. 16 Arkansas and No. 24 Stanford. The Metroplex challenge followed postseason format and was on podium, meaning Alabama competed in events outside the normal order and in a championship-style setting.  

Starting off on bars, three Crimson Tide gymnasts scored 9.900s, giving Alabama an early lead over its competitors. Despite a strong second rotation on the beam featuring two more 9.900s, Oklahoma took a .2 lead.  

In the second slot, freshman Rachel Rybicki earned a season and career high 9.875. This is the Michigan native’s third meet in a row, and Johnston said that she is one of the many freshmen making a huge impact on this year’s team. 

“[Rachel]’s putting the work in,” Johnston said. “She chips away, she does the little things, she pays attention to the details, and when it’s time for her to go, she trusts her training. The freshmen are doing an outstanding job.” 

In the third rotation, fellow freshman Gabby Gladieux was one of three 9.950s on the floor; a career high for the North Carolina native. With an additional 9.900 from junior Shania Adams, the Crimson Tide was able to retake the lead, going into the final event of the night with a .25 advantage.  

Although the vault score wasn’t enough to overtake the Sooners in the last rotation, the three Crimson Tide 9.925s offer a glimmer of hope in an event that was a low point for Alabama last Friday.  

Despite the falls last week, Johnston said the team’s approach to vault didn’t change this week. 

“We didn’t do anything different in practice,” Johnston said. “We’ve been training vault like that all year. We’ve approached it to go big, to go for the sticks.” 

For Johnston, she said the biggest takeaway of the night was seeing her team in a championship setting.  

“I love when we have the opportunity to prepare for a championship moment, and that’s what tonight felt like,” Johnston said. “Being neck-and-neck going into the final rotation, our team really stepped up and went big and that was a huge amount of growth we just made.” 

The Crimson Tide will hit the road again next week, heading to Athens, Georgia, to take on the No. 18 Georgia Bulldogs. The meet will begin at 6 p.m. CT on Feb. 17.  

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