Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

National Championship tournament starts tonight


After winning regionals two weekends ago, the Alabama gymnastics team begins preliminaries tonight in Gainesville, Fla., for the national championship tournament, where the Crimson Tide will compete for its fifth national championship.

The team left Tuscaloosa on Tuesday, used Wednesday as a practice day and begins preliminaries tonight. The finals are on Friday, and the individual championships are on Saturday. The team will return to Tuscaloosa later Saturday night.

Head coach Sarah Patterson said the team’s first goal is to advance on Thursday and to keep going on after that.

“I think we have to come out on fire,” she said. “You can’t take anything for granted.  The field is so tight. It’s like regionals.  You make a couple of mistakes that count, and you are out. Friday night, I feel like we want to be on the floor with a chance to win.  There are a lot of things that have to happen to make that come about, but I feel like we can take it one step at a time.”

For the past week, Patterson said the team did the same things they did after the SEC tournament, only with one less practice day.

“We aren’t changing really what we’ve done,” she said. “We are going to try to give them a little recovery time for their legs because you have to practice on Wednesday and compete Thursday and Friday.  That’s something that we haven’t done yet this year.  We will go into it knowing that they are rested.”

No. 2 seed Florida is hosting the tournament. Sophomore Ashley Priess said she’s looking forward to the rowdy crowd in Gainesville.

“I always feel like noise for a different team is better than no noise at all,” she said. “Even if they’re cheering for another team, it’s OK because it’s still energy. It gives me motivation to do a good job, despite the distractions.”

Senior Morgan Dennis is coming into her last national championship having been in this position many times before. Patterson said she’s expecting big things from Dennis in this last tournament.

“I expect Morgan to come out on fire,” she said. “I think that Morgan rises to the level of the competition in the big meets.  I think she is sometimes a little nervous, or she tells me she’s nervous.  I think the bigger the meet, the better she does.”

Dennis said for this year, she’d much prefer to leave with a team national championship rather than an individual one.

“When I was out there [competing] my freshman year and won, it was an awkward feeling that I didn’t have my girls down there on the floor with me,” she said. “I would trade in that championship for a team championship any day, especially after experiencing it at the SEC Championship last year.”

Because of the competition, the team will miss about three days of class. Priess said all the professors are very helpful in getting the team makeup work.

“I’ve never had an issue with making up work or having to make up tests and quizzes,” she said. “Everyone at the University is very accommodating.”

While focusing on classes during this exciting time in the season can be difficult, Priess said the coaches developed a good schedule to help the girls keep up with their work.

“I think that our program has created great balance for us to be students as well as great athletes,” she said.

On Thursday at starting at 6 p.m., the Tide will compete with five other teams in the second of two semifinals for the right to advance to Friday’s NCAA Super Six Team Final. Alabama starts Thursday’s session on the vault and will end on the floor exercise.

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