Gymnastics returns home for another Tiger matchup

Abby McCreary, Assistant Sports Editor

The last time a highly ranked Tigers team entered Coleman Coliseum, the Alabama gymnastics program defeated them in a thrilling final rotation.  

This Friday, Feb. 24, the Crimson Tide hopes to repeat the victory, this time against No. 8 Louisiana State University (3-5, 3-3 SEC).   

“It’s a huge relief to be back home,” Johnston said. “Back-to-back away trips are challenging on a group because of all the different environmental factors we have to adjust to. It’s comforting to be back in our home space and know the situation that we’re stepping into, so we’re really excited about that.”  

To take down the Tigers, the Crimson Tide (6-3, 4-2 SEC) will certainly need classic Coleman Coliseum energy. Alabama’s best rotation continues to be floor, an event that is known for its ability to engage the crowd, but the Crimson Tide’s floor exercise is No. 6 in the nation, just behind LSU. The only event that Alabama has a higher ranking in is the beam, but Tiger Aleah Finnegan scored a 10 on the beam in last weekend’s meet in Baton Rouge.  

Finnegan’s perfect score was just one element of LSU’s home meet against Florida, which ended in a miracle as the Tigers defeated the No. 2 team in the nation with their highest score of the season: 198.100. 

With the high score, LSU joins Alabama to become just two of the six teams who have reached the 198 mark this year. 

Johnston said that her team’s success comes down to the gymnasts’ sense of togetherness. 

“They have each others’ backs,” Johnston said. “I think you can really see that in the way they are fighting for each other and the way that they’re celebrating each other and stepping in when needed. I think you see their chemistry out on the competition floor and that speaks volumes about them.”  

If their chemistry isn’t obvious on the floor, it’s certainly clear on the scoresheet. Alabama’s past four meets have all been above 197, including its single 198 at the Metroplex Challenge. Now that the season is nearing its eighth week, the Crimson Tide’s ranking and postseason position will no longer be determined by its average meet score, but by its National Qualifying Score 

Sophomore Lilly Hudson said the NQS doesn’t change her approach to her routines.  

“Honestly the pressure is the same throughout the whole season,” Hudson said. “Every week you want to get better and just keep building. I think we’re on the right track so I’m excited for the rest of the season and I’m excited for postseason.” 

After two back-to-back road victories, junior Cameron Machado said the team is ready to continue its season in Tuscaloosa among the Crimson Tide fans.  

“I’m really excited for their energy,” junior Cameron Machado said. “It’s definitely different at away meets than at home meets so I’m really excited for that environment and to bring all that energy this weekend.” 

Alabama’s Friday night meet against LSU will also be the program’s Title IX Appreciation Night and Alumni night. The matchup will begin at 7 p.m. CT, Feb. 24, and will air on SEC Network+. 

“We’ve been on a high and we’re only getting better,” Hudson said. “We’re excited to go up against LSU this week — it’s going to be fun.”  

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