Guerra’s career night propels Alabama to win over Auburn


CW / Hannah Saad

James Ogletree, Staff Writer

A nearly perfect floor routine in a gymnast’s first-ever collegiate performance after suffering several fractures in her back is tough to top.

But that’s exactly what senior Ari Guerra did on Friday in Alabama’s win over No. 12 Auburn – and on senior night, no less.

Three tenths of a point (196.7 to 196.4) was the final victory margin for the Crimson Tide. If Guerra had merely matched her career high in the three events she competed in, Alabama would have lost. Instead, she scored a career-high 9.95 in all three.

As soon as the ebullient senior completed the final routine of her four-year career in Coleman Coliseum, she leaned her head back and was already crying.

“I was like, ‘I just did that – again!’” Guerra said. “This last one was just it being all out there and my final moment of the four years being here and wearing the script A on my chest.”

Guerra’s trio of career highs on the vault, uneven bars and floor exercise helped No. 8 Alabama overcome another disappointing showing on the balance beam. For the fourth time in nine meets this season, the team scored below a 49 on beam.

All wasn’t lost when junior Wynter Childers, returning to the lineup after three weeks of battling injury, fell off the beam – especially because senior Abby Armbrecht followed it up with a 9.9, matching her career best.

But when freshman Emily Gaskins fell, ensuring that the team score would include a fall, the team had to either compose itself or squander the momentum it had earlier built.

“They fought until the very end,” coach Dana Duckworth said. “And you have to not count a fall to be able to do what we’re trying to do.”

As the team walked from beam to floor, its lead over Auburn gone, senior Angelina Giancroce pulled the gymnasts together and encouraged them to re-focus.

“I just talked to the team about how that’s in the past and what’s in the future is our floor rotation,” Giancroce said. “And in practice this week, we killed it.”

And kill it, they did.

Junior Maddie Desch led the team off with a 9.9, followed by three more scores of 9.8 or above. At that point, the teams were tied with two gymnasts each left to compete.

The seniors took control on senior night, starting with Armbrecht’s 9.925, which fell just short of tying a career high for the second time in 15 minutes. Guerra capped her transcendent trifecta with a 9.95 and Alabama walked away with the win and its highest event score of the season, a 49.5.

Guerra’s night began with a 9.95 from the anchor spot just a few weeks after she changed her vault. That boosted the team’s vault score from a 49.175, right around its season average, to a 49.35, tying its highest of the last two seasons.

She went fourth on bars and, for the second straight event, increased her career best from a 9.9 to a 9.95. That led to a season-high 49.325, meaning two of the team’s five highest event scores of the season came in a half-hour span.

The 48.525 on the balance beam was only the second-lowest of the year; three gymnasts fell in the season-opening meet en route to a 47.6. But going three-for-four in setting season highs this late into the season isn’t easily overshadowed, and Duckworth will do her best to keep it that way.

“I kept saying nothing tonight is going to steal our joy,” Duckworth said. “The resilience that this team has had – this is what it’s going to take until the very end, and it just keeps us climbing and reaching for something.”

Alabama and Auburn are scheduled to compete again on Saturday, March 9, at the annual Elevate the Stage meet in Birmingham.