‘The small details’: Alabama gymnastics vaults to new season high

No. 6 Alabama Gymnastics seized the spotlight and put the No. 2 LSU Tigers in its shadow.

When the lights shined brightest in Coleman Coliseum Friday night, Feb. 19, in the 18th annual “Power of Pink” meet, the Crimson Tide (5-1) scored a season-high in its defeat of the Tigers (4-2), 197.725-197.325. The win marks the program’s second-straight win over LSU, and it remains in contention for a conference title. 

“We have been building toward this week after week,” said head coach Dana Duckworth. “I am so proud of this team in how they are living the core values of Alabama gymnastics.” 

Alabama scored season highs on vault (49.450) and floor exercise (49.550) and nearly tied its season high of 49.425 on the balance beam with a 49.400. The vault and floor exercise were two events the team had not scored a 49.300 on all season.

“The biggest thing was focusing on the small details,” said sophomore Luisa Blanco. “You can get caught up on the big skills and difficulty that sometimes the execution kind of gets lost.”

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This monumental season high and highest score dating back to Feb. 3, 2017 could not have been possible without Blanco’s contributions. Blanco scored the third-highest all-around score in school history, 39.825, due to career highs on all four events, and earned an all-around title, which included a pair of 9.975s on both the balance beam and floor exercise. Blanco scored a 9.925 on vault and 9.950 on the uneven bars. 

“I was doing it for my team, and that’s the whole purpose,” Blanco said. “Staying in my moment and making sure I’m contributing as much as I can was the main goal.”

Graber also received a perfect 10 from one judge and earned herself a career high, 9.975. 

Outside of Blanco, the Crimson Tide earned three scores of 9.9 or better from Graber on floor exercise, senior Alonza Klopfer on beam, and junior Kaylee Quinn won her first vault title of the season with a 9.950. Alabama also counted five scores of 9.875 and one score under 9.850 from sophomore Makarri Doggette on beam, 9.80. 

For the first time in program history, Alabama competed in six 10.0 start-value performances on vault, but came up short in the anchor position with freshman Shania Adams. Adams was the lone competitor to not “hit” her routine, keeping the team yearning for a 24-for-24 meet.

“We did an awesome job on the vault,” Duckworth said. “We really went 23-for-24 routines, which gives us even more room for improvement.”

With upcoming meets against No. 5 Arkansas and No. 1 Florida, Alabama will have to prove that it can consistently put up big scores in order to win. Blanco believes the team is more than capable of putting up more 197 scores. 

“We are a 197-plus team,” Blanco said. “We finally got an opportunity to show off what we have been working toward, and I think it’s just going to get better from here.” 

Alabama will make its final road trip of the regular season to Fayetteville, Ark. to take on the No. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks. First vault is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPNU.