Abby Armbrecht’s dream career comes to a close


CW/ Hannah Saad

James Ogletree, Sports Writer

On a night when she should have been devastated that her gymnastics career was over, Abby Armbrecht’s despair turned to excitement when she learned she would get to compete one final time.

Shortly after the Alabama gymnastics team learned on April 6 that it would not advance from the Ann Arbor Regional to the NCAA Championships, it was announced that Armbrecht, one of the team’s three seniors, qualified for nationals as an individual event specialist on the floor exercise.

She said it will be the first time since high school that she’s competed without her team there with her.

“Obviously, we were all very sad that the team isn’t going, and I would love to be going with the team right now,” Armbrecht said. “But at the same time, it was a little crazy because I thought I was done with gymnastics, and then they announce your name. It’s like, ‘OK, I get to do this one more time.’

“I almost feel like I’ve been given one more chance to do the sport that I love, and it’s my favorite event, which is exciting,” Armbrecht said.

She competed on floor in 26 of the Crimson Tide’s 28 meets over the last two seasons and was one of the team’s most consistent floor performers this year, scoring a 9.90 or above in six of the final seven regular season meets. She capped her collegiate career with a 9.9125 in the national championship on Friday, which earned her All-American honors.

In her four years at Alabama, Armbrecht has used three different floor routines, changing after her junior and senior years. She says her current routine, which includes a violin remix of “Stairway to Heaven,” is her favorite that she’s ever done.

Head coach Dana Duckworth said the routine reflects Armbrecht’s personality. She said while many gymnasts want to mimic a hip-hop style like Britney Spears or Beyoncé, Armbrecht stuck with what worked for her.

“Nothing really gets her too high, and nothing ever gets her too low. I think that she just kind of does Abby,” Duckworth said. “Her floor routine is a reflection of passion and a love for the sport and a style that fits just where she is comfortable. … It’s more of a long, graceful, pretty elegant movement versus someone who was more short and sharp, hip hoppy, jazzy, spirit fingers.”

Duckworth said before the team’s senior night on March 1 that she loves when Armbrecht makes suggestions while they’re choreographing routines. She reiterated that point before nationals.

“My most favorite thing about Abby is she’ll say, ‘I have an idea.’ And then she’ll come up with an idea and she’ll say, ‘What do you think about this?’” Duckworth said. “It’ll be something really small and I’ll say, ‘Abby, that looks really good’ or I’ll say, ‘No, let’s try something different.’ When we were working on her floor routine, it’s a partnership.”

For Duckworth, traveling to nationals with just one gymnast instead of the full team was unique; Alabama hadn’t missed the NCAA championships since 1982. But the team’s other two seniors, Ariana Guerra and Angelina Giancroce, made the trip to Fort Worth, and the rest of the team helped Armbrecht in whatever ways they could.

“They told me when we were on the bus coming back [from Ann Arbor], ‘If you need us to come in and do our schoolwork while you practice we can watch you and be there,’” Armbrecht said. “The other two seniors booking a flight to go watch, that meant a lot. They’ve been so supportive and that’s been great.”

The young girl from Mobile, Alabama, who grew up attending UA gymnastics camps, could have never dreamed that she would one day complete 102 routines for the Crimson Tide. But now that 102nd routine has passed, and Armbrecht is left looking back on the memories she’s made over her four years.

“It’s meant everything,” Armbrecht said. “It was my dream for so long to come to Alabama. I always came to campus growing up, and I always pictured myself being a gymnast here, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about how everything went. It meant the world to be able to live my dream here.”