Gymnastics season ends in regional final


Courtesy of Alabama Athletics

James Ogletree, Staff Writer

For the first time since Bear Bryant was Alabama’s head football coach, its gymnastics team did not qualify for the national championship.

Since missing the inaugural NCAA championship in 1982, the Crimson Tide had reached nationals 36 straight years. The nation’s second-longest streak came to an end with a third-place finish in the Ann Arbor regional final on Saturday night. No. 10 Alabama’s score of 197.225 was just 0.05 point behind No. 7 Michigan’s 197.275. Along with the Wolverines, No. 2 UCLA also advanced with a 198.075.

“I’m proud of the way our ladies fought to the very end, giving it all they had,” head coach Dana Duckworth said in a release. “We knew that this new format was going to be extremely challenging and we prepared from the summer on to be able to give it our all two nights in a row, and that’s just what we did.”

Alabama trailed Michigan by 0.275 point entering the final rotation and responded with a 49.425 on the balance beam, just short of its season high. There was no margin for error after freshman Shallon Olsen scored a 9.175, but senior Abby Armbrecht, freshman Emily Gaskins and sophomore Lexi Graber closed with scores of 9.90, 9.925 and 9.95, respectively, to keep the team’s hopes alive. All three set or tied their career highs.

The Crimson Tide also began the night with a 49.425 on floor, courtesy of three consecutive 9.90s by Armbrecht, Graber and senior Ari Guerra.

If one event could be blamed for the team’s failure to advance, it would be vault, where Alabama scored a 49.125, tying its lowest score there since January. None of the six gymnasts scored above a 9.875 and two scored below a 9.8 to allow Michigan the second spot it would not relinquish.

Senior Abby Armbrecht earned an individual spot at nationals by recording the highest floor exercise score among individuals not on an advancing team. She will compete on April 19 in Fort Worth, Texas, for the national floor exercise title.

“Our senior class helped build a tremendous team and set incredibly high standards for our program through their work ethic and leadership,” Duckworth said. “They have every reason to hold their heads up high as their gymnastics careers come to a close. As for our team and amazing coaching and support staff, this outcome does not define us; it will only make us better and grow in life. The journey, the relationships and the character they have built will last a lifetime.”