AUBURN, Ala. — For the third time in her career, the Alabama-Auburn gymnastics meet came down to senior Ashley Priess, and for the third time in a row she came up big to earn the win, scoring a 9.925 on the balance beam to push the Crimson Tide to a 196.325-196.250 victory.
In addition to securing an Alabama win in Auburn for the third time in a row, Priess has clinched a Tide victory in each of Alabama’s first three meets this season.
“It’s been three meets now and it’s come down to the last routine and she had to hit her routine so we could win,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “Coming back from both [ankle] surgeries and being in this position, I know she is so mentally tough. I know that when it counts, she’s going to be right there on fire.” The Tide’s win, which came in front of a raucous Auburn Arena record crowd of 7,299, pushed its streak to 104 in a row.
“This was one of the best environments outside of Coleman Coliseum to compete,” Patterson said. “This new arena, the energy of this crowd, it was awesome.”
Alabama was without senior All-American Geralen Stack-Eaton who was sidelined after an awkward landing in warm ups.
“We had some adversity at the beginning of the meet,” Patterson said. “I told the team, `Ladies, this is an opportunity for someone to step in, someone to do the job.’”
With the meet on the line going into the final rotation, the tension, high throughout, reached new levels when junior Ashley Sledge, who posted Alabama’s top score on the vault and floor exercise, fell from the beam in the third position. To keep Alabama in the meet, each of its next three gymnasts had to hit their routines.
“When Ashley Sledge fell on balance beam, I knew the next three were going to hit, because Ashley’s been a rock for us in the first couple of meets,” Patterson said. “I just knew they weren’t going to let her down.” Junior Marissa Gutierrez scored a 9.825 followed by sophomore Sarah DeMeo’s 9.85. Then it was up to Priess, whose meet-best score propelled Alabama to a season-high 49.200.
The Tide scored a 48.975 on the uneven bars to open the meet, anchored by Priess’ season and meet-best 9.925. Sledge led the Tide to a 49.325 on the vault after turning in a meet-best 9.925. Alabama turned in a 48.825 on the floor exercise led by Sledge’s 9.85.