Gladieux earns title in gymnastics’ second-place conference finish

Abby McCreary, Assistant Sports Editor

Head coach Ashley Johnston named one theme for the SEC Championship. 

“Let it rip.” 

The Alabama gymnastics team did just that Saturday night in Gas South Arena in Duluth, Georgia. The Crimson Tide achieved one of its highest scores of the season, 197.925, defeating the Kentucky Wildcats, LSU Tigers and Missouri Tigers — all teams it previously lost to in the regular season. 

The only team Alabama couldn’t trump was Florida, which won its second SEC Championship in a row, adding the title to its regular season champion status. 

Alabama’s second place finish was helped by an incredible vault rotation, which the Crimson Tide usually struggles with. But Saturday night, Alabama tied its season best, 49.575, led by freshman Gabby Gladieux’s season-best 9.950. The high score earned the freshman a place in the four-way tie for the event title.  

“It’s a dream,” Gladieux said. “Last year at this time I was watching this meet on TV so to actually be competing in it with my best friends is amazing. With vault, I just trusted my training and that was it.” 

Graduate student Shallon Olsen scored just below Gladieux with a 9.925 on the vault, earning a 10 from one judge. Senior Luisa Blanco was the only other Alabama gymnast to receive a 10 from a judge, on both the beam and the floor, but both routines fell short of the coveted perfect score.  

The only gymnast to earn 10s from all four judges was Florida’s Trinity Thomas — and she did it twice.  

Thomas’ perfect scores on the floor and the bars earned her the all-around title with a 39.800, with Blanco just behind with 39.675.  

The AAI Award finalist was just one sixth of an impressive Gator bars performance, with the lowest score being a 9.900. The Gators dominated the rest of the competition, sweeping all the individual event titles except for vault, which Florida sophomore Sloane Blakely split with Gladieux and two others. 

With Alabama’s second place finish, it remains the only SEC program to finish in the top four every year since the competition’s beginning. But Johnston has loftier goals for her first year with the program.  

“I believe the best is still to come for this team,” Johnston said. “Every single athlete committed to honing into the process, doing the little things to collectively help the big performance. I’m proud of how they performed tonight and how they handled diversity.” 

In an arena filled with some of the best gymnasts in the nation — and their rowdiest fans — the Crimson Tide proved that it has what it takes to stay in the “Bama Bubble” and accomplish some impressive scores despite cheers and fight songs coming at them from all directions.  

Johnston said staying in the “Bama Bubble” is crucial to a stand-out performance on platform and on the national stage, and Saturday night, it worked as planned. 

“It was pretty simple tonight because the meet happened so fast,” Johnston said. “I don’t want to say it was easy, but it was simple, just because there weren’t many other options. You were either in it or out of it, in the corral or out of the corral.” 

With its SEC performance, Alabama destroyed any doubts that it’s “out of the corral.” The Crimson Tide’s next competition will be at the NCAA Regional Championships from March 30 to April 1. 

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