Gymnastics rolls to Seattle Regional final

Robert Cortez | @robertcortez27, Assistant Sports Editor

After scoring a pair of 198s or better in its final three meets prior to postseason, Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth stated Team 48 was at an “all time high” in confidence. 

No. 5 Alabama gymnastics undoubtedly performed with confidence in the Seattle Regional opener as it posted a 197.900, its third highest score of the season.  

The Crimson Tide came out on top in the afternoon session and didn’t trail during the meet. Alabama defeated No. 12 Michigan State, Washington and BYU en route to the regional final. The regional final is on Saturday, April 2, in the Alaska Airlines Arena. 

Incredibly proud of staying in the Bama Bubble, hitting 24-for-24 and knowing there is more in the tank,” Duckworth said. “The goal was to start strong, stay strong and finish strong and we did just that.”

What made Alabama’s performance impressive was their ability to post a high score with limited help from All-American and All-SEC gymnasts, juniors Luisa Blanco and Makarri Doggette. Blanco and Doggette have been navigating injuries, which only allowed them to compete on the uneven bars in Thursday’s competition. Both Blanco and Doggette recorded a 9.90 on their uneven bars performances. 

Along with Blanco and Doggette, sophomores Shania Adams and  Cam Machado and freshman Lily Hudson scored a 9.90 on the uneven bars. Junior Mati Waligora led off the event and posted a season-high of 9.950 on the uneven bars. 

Adams also scored a 9.90 on the balance beam. 

With Blanco out of the floor exercise lineup, senior Griffin James had to step into her place and perform her first routine in competition this season. James showed pose and power, tumbling her way to a score of 9.875. 

No score lower than 9.850 was counted for the Crimson Tide on floor, resulting in  a 49.500 on the event. Hudson and senior Lexi Graber highlighted the apparatus, both scoring a 9.950 to close out Alabama’s opening rotation. 

Senior Shallon Olsen also got in on the 9.950 party. The two-time Olympian recorded a pair of 9.950s in the meet on the vault and the balance beam. Both scores marked career highs for Olsen. Olsen also scored a 9.850 on the floor exercise to begin the meet. 

In order to capture its 33rd regional title in program history, Alabama must topple No. 12 Michigan State and the two teams that advance out of Thursday’s evening session. The four teams fighting for the final two spots in the regional final are No. 4 Utah, No. 13 Oregon State, Illinois and Stanford.

However, all the Crimson Tide need to do is finish in second place in the regional final to advance to the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas. 

“Now we rest, recover and prepare to do it again,” Duckworth said. 

First vault in the regional final is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and will be streamed on the Watch ESPN app.