Gymnastics extends SEC record, finishes third at SEC Championship


CW/ Hannah Saad

James Ogletree, Staff Writer

Alabama gymnastics finished third at the 2019 SEC Gymnastics Championships on Saturday, continuing its record as the only SEC team to never finish outside the top four. It is also the team’s 21st consecutive top-three finish, the longest active streak.

Those distinctions were both in danger entering the meet, however, as the Crimson Tide was seeded fifth, its lowest seeding in the history of the event. It easily won the afternoon meet, containing seeds five through eight, with a season-high score of 197.350.

“We talked about it all week: We were on a business trip here in New Orleans, we had a job to do,” UA head coach Dana Duckworth said in a release. “Our objectives for this trip were to have our best performance of the season so far and we accomplished that. We also wanted to be so competitive that we would challenge those in the evening session. That’s really what we wanted to accomplish.”

LSU won the championship for the third straight year with a score of 197.900. Florida finished second at 197.750. It was the seventh straight year that LSU, Florida and Alabama were the top three finishers. Georgia and Kentucky, both ranked higher than Alabama nationally, finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Sophomore Lexi Graber, who has been battling an ankle injury, led the team with a career-best all-around score of 39.650. Her career-high balance beam score of 9.950 gave her a share of the SEC title and propelled the team to a season-high event score of 49.450, tying last year’s season high on beam that was also set at SECs.

Freshman Emily Gaskins also tied her career high with a 9.875 on the beam and freshman Shallon Olsen’s 9.925 was just short of a new personal best.

The team capped the meet with another near-season-high on the floor exercise. Four gymnasts scored 9.900 or better as the team finished with a 49.475, just .025 points below its season high.

Alabama’s 49.225 on vault and 49.200 on bars were also above its season averages.

Now the team awaits its seeding and location for regional competition. The top 36 teams will be seeded into four regional sites (LSU, Georgia, Oregon State and Michigan) on Monday based on their National Qualifying Score (NQS).

NQS is calculated by taking a team’s top six scores – three of which must be away from home – dropping the top one, and averaging the remaining five. Five of Alabama’s top six scores have come away from Coleman Coliseum, so it satisfies that criterion.

Its 197.350 on Saturday is dropped because it is the team’s highest score of the season, so it averages the next five highest scores to arrive at an NQS of 196.990. The regional sites for the top 16 teams are pre-determined based on their ranking. It works just like a March Madness bracket: Nos. 1, 8, 9, 16 are in one quadrant, Nos. 2, 7, 10, 15 in another, etc.

Alabama was ranked No. 10 entering Saturday, but there will almost certainly be shuffling throughout the entire top 36 based on this weekend’s results, so the regional fields won’t be known until they’re announced on Monday.