Mar 21

Alabama wins second straight SEC Gymnastics title

By: Paul Thomas 

Published: Saturday, March 21, 2015 

DULUTH — For the second straight year, the Alabama Crimson Tide claimed the Southeastern Conference Gymnastics Championship with a strong performance Saturday at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in front of 8,758 total fans for the two sessions.

The fifth-ranked Crimson Tide scored a 197.525 to edge out No. 3 LSU (197.45) and No. 2 Florida (197.2) for the title.

“This is amazing,” Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth said. “I am so proud of this senior class. I am so proud of these women who just kept fighting. All week we talked about being task-warriors, focusing on the task, not the outcome. Just basically plugging away one moment at a time. If there was a mistake, the next second was more important. That’s exactly what they did tonight. It allowed us to put four events together. It allowed us to build on one another. We had some good things. We had some up and down things, but at the same time we never stopped fighting. We will take these lessons into the championship season and I cannot wait to continue and move forward.”

LSU seniors Rhegan Courville and Jessie Jordan tied for the all-around title with a 39.525.

No. 8 Auburn finished fourth with a 196.925, just ahead of the afternoon session’s top performer — No. 9 Georgia (196).

Alabama gained control of the meet on its second rotation with a 49.475 on floor exercises, led by a 9.95 from junior Carley Sims. The Crimson Tide pulled away on the next rotation with a 49.5 on vault.

Kaitlyn Clark scored a 9.95 on vault and Alabama go a pair of 9.9s from Lauren Beers and Sims. The Crimson Tide closed out the meet with a 49.275 on bars, matching its opening score on beam to clinch the school’s first-ever back-to-back SEC titles.

“I knew that the beam scores were tight so everyone had to deliver,” Duckworth said. “When we went to floor — to me that was a beautiful floor performance and it set our stage to be able to go to vault and do a great job. I do feel we got a little tight on bars. No one really knew the score … I just think it was last event, it’s the SEC Championship. It just kind of happened. We can take that and we can get better.”

Beers was Alabama’s top all-around performer with a 39.5, good for third overall. The junior scored two of Alabama’s 9.9s on bars.

“We just wanted to stay in our ‘Bama Bubble and I think we did a great job of that tonight,” Beers said. “Dana was just telling us to ‘Take it one routine at a time and the next moment was the most important.’ We just went out there and really tried to focus on ourselves and it really paid off.”

The top-seeded Gators came out firing, scoring over 49.625 on vault and a 49.575 bars, but were unable to close in the final two rotations. Florida Junior Bridget Sloan scored the meet’s only perfect 10 on bars, while fellow junior Bridgette Caquatto wasn’t far behind with a 9.95.

LSU scored over 49 in every event except for the beam. Despite scoring a 49.55 on vault in their final rotation, the Tigers could only watch as Alabama clinched the meet on bars.

Georgia closed with a strong performance on the floor with a 49.35. Gigi Marino led the way with a 9.9 on the floor.

“I thought we finished very strongly on floor. I am very proud of how they finished,” head coach Danna Durante said. “As a staff, that’s what we kept saying. ‘We’re going to finish strong. We’re going to fight for this.’”

The Bulldogs also got a big performance on bars as Rachel Schick and Brittany Rogers each scored a 9.9 as the team scored a 49.375 in the event.

No. 18 Arkansas finished sixth with a 195.95. Missouri finished seventh with a 195.7, while No. 25 Kentucky was eighth with a 195.025.