College gymnastics: No. 5 Alabama comes back to beat No. 16 Auburn
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Down by a full point after the first two rotations of the annual Elevate the Stage meet in Birmingham's Legacy Arena, the No. 5 ranked Alabama gymnastics team forged a furious comeback over the last two rotations to beat No. 16 Auburn 195.850-194.675.
"Well if they wanted a show, I think they got one," UA head coach Dana Duckworth said. "I'm very proud of the fight our team showed. They never gave up. They just kept believing. I think that's the biggest lesson from tonight is that the meet is never open until the last routine has been scored."
The Crimson Tide started things off with a 49.200-vault rotation, behind a 9.925 from senior Katie Bailey and a 9.85 from junior Kiana Winston. Disaster came on the next rotation, when three of the Tide's six routines included falls, resulting in a 47.850 rotation total, led by a 9.825 from Bailey.
Alabama responded during the next rotation with a 49.225 on the balance beam paced by a 9.925 from Winston and 9.875s from freshman Wynter Childers and junior Nickie Guerrero.
Then came the floor exercise. The Tide was on fire from the start, with Guerrero starting things off with a 9.875, followed by another 9.875 from senior Mackenzie Valentin, just off her career-best of 9.9. Alabama finished things off with three-straight 9.9 or better scores.
Freshman Maddie Desch posted a 9.9, bettering her previous high by nearly a tenth of a point. Winston then came in and tied her season best of 9.95 with a floor rumbling routine that brought the crowd to its feet. Alabama wasn't done though. Senior Aja Sims put the exclamation point on the night with a career-best 9.975 routine that had the crowd dancing along and producing deafening cheers.
With Auburn having problems of its own on the balance beam and Alabama posting a season-best 49.575 on the floor, the Tide managed a two-plus point swing from the halfway point of the meet, winning by more than a point.
Bailey won the vault, while Winston took top honors on the balance beam and the all-around (39.075) and Sims earned the victory on the floor exercise.
Alabama returns home on Feb. 3 to take on Florida in the Crimson Tide's 13th annual Power of Pink meet. The Power of Pink initiative started under legendary Alabama coach Sarah Patterson to help raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer.