Key Gymnast Optimistic to Compete in Multiple Events in Ft. Worth
The Alabama gymnastics team is no stranger to the NCAA gymnastics championship meet as the Crimson Tide has made 38 appearances. Head Coach Dana Duckworth and her team travel to Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday afternoon before competing Thursday at noon CST.
Alabama set a program record of scoring three 198+ in a season, with the most recent being a 198.175 in the 2022 NCAA Regional Finals in Seattle. The Crimson Tide hopes to continue the momentum into Thursday's meet against Oklahoma, Utah, and Minnesota.
"Those 198s are big confidence boosters, and we're just looking forward to adding that because we do have more still," said Lexi Graber, fifth-year senior. "We're looking to put it all out there and put it all together."
Putting it all together is something Team 48 has been working on the whole season. While the scores were in the top five overall scores in program history, the team did not do as well on its statistically best event.
Alabama ranks third in the nation on the uneven bars, fifth on vault and beam, and seventh on the floor exercise. In its last meet, the team's best-ranked event, bars, was its lowest scoring event. The Crimson Tide only had two scores of 9.9+ on the uneven bars.
Injuries hit the team hard this season as: Makarri Doggette's been limited to one event since the Georgia meet, Luisa Blanco only competed on the uneven bars at Regionals, and Sania Mitchell is out for the rest of the season after tearing her achilles. Even without two of their biggest contributors competing on multiple events, Bama was able to still put up those big numbers.
Head Coach Dana Duckworth said she is optimistic that Blanco will be able to compete on vault and beam along with bars on Thursday.
"She's been very diligent to her process of rehab and treatments and taking care of her body as best she possibly can with the hopes that we'll have her on more events than bars," said Duckworth.
With Blanco presumably still out of the floor lineup, Griffin James will most likely compete in her place. James scored a career-high 9.925 in the regional finals. James has not had the easiest road to competition for the Crimson Tide after suffering a season ending injury in 2020 and having to rehab at home without the training staff because of COVID. Through all the adversity thrown her way, James stayed positive, a feat that didn't go unnoticed by Duckworth.
"Not only is she a fighter, but when I talk about a reliable leader and a voice and she's very open to holding people accountable and personal responsibility. Griffin doesn't show up late. Griffin is gonna be early and on time, and she's going to put the work in. I just feel that she's so much more than a gymnast for our program and it's a great tribute to just her personality, to her drive, and her will power." -Duckworth.
The NCAA semifinals start on Thursday, April 14, 2022, at noon CST. It will be aired on ESPN2. The top two teams from the afternoon and evening sessions will move on to compete in the finals Saturday, April 16, 2022.