Feb. 17, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
The No. 6 Alabama gymnastics team (8-0 overall, 5-0 SEC) beat No. 5 Arkansas 197.650-196.125 in front of a sold-out crowd of 15,075 during the Crimson Tide's eighth annual Power of Pink meet.
Friday marked the ninth time Alabama has sold out Coleman Coliseum and the eighth time in the past seven years. With the win, Alabama is now a perfect 17-0 in its pink leotards. In the midst of all things pink, for the third year in a row, prior to the meet, each Alabama gymnasts was introduced in tandem with a breast cancer survivor.
"Seeing all of the pink just kind of set the stage for tonight," senior Geralen Stack-Eaton said. "As we walked out with our survivors on our arm, it was just so inspiring to see them and what they've endured and how much they've fought through. That to me, I just think it set the bar for tonight."
Stack-Eaton won the all-around and vault, while she and senior Ashley Priess tied for top honors on the uneven bars and floor exercise. Priess also won the balance beam.
In a meet where Alabama led from start to finish, there was plenty of excitement on the night, especially during the last rotation where the Tide scored a season-best 49.600 as a team, led by four scores of 9.9 or better, including matching 9.95s from Stack-Eaton and Priess in UA's last two routines.
Freshman Lora Leigh Frost, from Decatur, Ala., brought the capacity crowd to its feet with a career-best 9.9 on the floor exercise. Sophomore Diandra Milliner and junior Marissa Gutierrez kept the electricity going, posting scores of 9.925 and 9.875 respectively, before the senior duo of Stack-Eaton and Priess closed out the night and the Razorbacks.
Junior Ashley Sledge, who has gone in the all-around in each of the first five meets this season, was working through a sore back, so Patterson elected to rest her and move Frost into the lineup.
"Ashley said she wasn't 100 percent, but that she could go, but this is where we have to make smart decisions," Patterson said. "This is where you've got to trust that teamwork. I told Lora Leigh, `This is your opportunity, go out there and grab it.' And she did."
Alabama started things off with a 49.525 on the vault led by Stack-Eaton's 9.95 and followed that up with a season-best 49.300 on the uneven bars led by matching 9.9s from Stack-Eaton and Priess. On the balance beam, Priess led the Tide to a 49.225 team score with a 9.925.
"I think it was really great the way that we had a lot of different people step up," Priess said. "I think we're proving over and over again that we have a lot of depth this year. It's exciting that we're a really flexible team. If one person goes out for some reason that we really can't control, another person steps up like Lora Leigh did on floor. She just did an amazing job. Overall, it just builds our confidence."
Friday was also alumni night for the gymnastics team as more than forty members of the Tide family returned with their families to celebrate the championship legacy they helped create.
"I told our ladies that the men and women who were introduced before the meet tonight laid the foundation for the wonderful tradition of excellence we have here with Alabama gymnastics," Patterson said.
Among the alumni on hand Friday night were members of the 2002 NCAA Championship team, which is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Alabama's fourth national title this season.
The Tide is on the road for the next two weeks, first at LSU on Feb. 24 and then at Oklahoma on March 2.