Alabama gymnastics lets out a sigh of relief in Columbia

All gymnastic champions know how to finesse a four-inch balance beam. The No. 4 Alabama team is no exception.


Hannah Saad | @hannah_saad21

The Tide faces off against Arkansas in the winter of 2020.

Alabama gymnastics had two falls and a healthy wobble on the apparatus, almost costing the program its first loss to the No. 14 Missouri Tigers Friday night, Jan. 15. But a clutch 9.925 by sophomore Luisa Blanco in the anchor position allowed the Crimson Tide to scrape by the Tigers, 195.775-195.750.

The balance beam did not cause problems for senior Alonza Klopfer and freshman Shania Adams, as the two led the Crimson Tide with a 9.825 and 9.850. But the same couldn’t be said for sophomore Mati Waligora, who suffered two falls. She scored a 8.40, and it snowballed from there: Senior Lexi Graber followed Waligora’s performance with her own fall, and sophomore Makarri Doggette committed a sizable balance check.

For Graber, who also stumbled last week, the fall was like a bout of deja vu. But those behind her were able to stay on the apparatus, and her score wasn’t counted. Doggette, named All-American to the bars last season, swooped in with a 9.925, saving the team in the event.

It was an uncharacteristic night for Graber, not just for her two falls, but also because she scored under a 9.90 on floor exercise for the first time in 13 meets. But the Florida native continues to be a staple in the vault lineup, now leading the team with the highest score on the event for the second-straight week with a 9.925.

The Crimson Tide has faced adversity early – something that might be an advantage for the team, if they can overcome their hurdles ahead of the SEC and NCAA championships. Head coach Dana Duckworth and her staff do not want to see falls become a theme.

“We will use tonight as an opportunity for growth in the mental toughness that is necessary when it comes to competing on the road,” Duckworth said. “As a team we are disappointed in our overall performance, but there were some strong individual moments.”

In this young season, Adams is showing steady improvements, as she scored higher on three of the four events, excluding bars, from last week. Like Graber, Adams also scored a 9.925 on vault and did not score lower than a 9.850 against Missouri.

Some new but familiar names were etched into different lineups for the first time this season. After only competing on vault last week, Blanco also made the beam and uneven bars lineup, scoring a career high of 9.725 on the event. Junior Shallon Olsen got the nod to compete on floor exercise, scoring a 9.80.

Alabama is back in action in Coleman Coliseum next Friday, Jan. 22, against rival Auburn. First vault is scheduled for 7:30 CT and will be televised on the SEC Network.