Gymnastics travels to Georgia for rivalry meet

Abby McCreary, Assistant Sports Editor

It’s been decades since legendary coaches Sarah Patterson and Suzanne Yoculan changed the world of college gymnastics. The pair helped make gymnastics a popular topic at the dinner table as their passion for the sport became regularly covered by the media, including an ESPN documentary about their developing programs. Infusing the sport with fire, emotion, and competition, the two established a rivalry between their two programs, Alabama and Georgia, that will see its next installment this Friday, Feb. 17.  

“I think the rivalries are awesome for our sport,” Alabama head coach Ashley Johnston said. “Just like the Iron Bowl is great, whether it’s football, basketball, gymnastics, it gives the fans something to rally behind and something to really be invested in.” 

The No. 9 Crimson Tide (5-3, 3-2 SEC) will travel to Athens, Georgia, to take on the No. 19 Bulldogs (6-7, 1-3 SEC) after both teams competed in the Metroplex Challenge last weekend, although not against each other. In their last five matchups, Alabama leads 4-1, although the one loss came in Georgia territory.  

Although senior Ella Burgess is too young to have witnessed the storied history of Sarah and Suzanne, she said she has always known about the competitive and fiery rivalry.  

“The year before I came here, Alabama was at Georgia and the meet came down to the last beam routine and Alabama won, and I remembered how I couldn’t wait to be there,” Burgess said. “To be able to be a part of that now and have that rivalry and have fun while competing against the best, it’s an honor. 

At this point in the season, the Crimson Tide is in perfect shape to challenge its greatest rival. Alabama is one of only five teams in the nation to hit the 198 mark, and the team has improved its season high score in the last three meets it has competed in. The Crimson Tide’s floor and beam routines are No. 6 and 7 in the nation, respectively, and its vault routine reached a season high at the Metroplex Challenge.  

Sophomore Jordyn Paradise said that last weekend’s vault routine was exciting, but the Crimson Tide isn’t finished yet.  

“It was exciting to have that night,” Paradise said. “It goes to show that you stay in the process, stay in the moment, keep trusting your training. The work will eventually add up. Like Ashley said, we still have more to give.” 

Johnston said that although focusing on this week’s rivalry will be tempting, the key to keeping the momentum going will be to start sharpening every detail.   

“[The rivalry] gives us the adrenaline and the excitement going into this week,” Johnston said. “But when we’re in that moment, we just have to focus on the things we can control, stay in our Bama bubble, and let the rest of it take care of itself.” 

The meet will begin with Alabama on bars at 6 p.m. CT Friday, Feb. 17, and will be televised on SEC Network.  

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