March 8, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
After back-to-back weeks on the road, the No. 4 Alabama gymnastics team returns to Coleman Coliseum this Friday to take on No. 14 Missouri starting at 7:30 p.m.
The meet also marks the first time an Alabama team has faced the Tigers since they were announced as the Southeastern Conference's 14th team last fall. The Crimson Tide is also the first SEC gymnastics team Missouri has competed against since the announcement was made.
"I was so excited, first of all to have another great gymnastics team in our conference," UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. "Then I went through all of the sport's schedules and realized that we were the first Alabama team that was going to get to meet Missouri. That made it even more exciting for me."
In addition to serving as a welcome to the SEC, Patterson also saw the Alabama-Missouri meet, which was on the Tide's schedule long before the conference announcement was made in the fall, as a chance to make a difference for two areas that were ravaged by tornados last spring.
"This is a great opportunity for us to not only welcome Missouri to the SEC, but to have a meet that is centered around tornado relief," Patterson said. "I just think that while it's all about gymnastics and putting on a great show and welcoming them to the SEC, you can always use athletics for a greater good, and that's what this meet is about."
An F-5 tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa on April 27, just days after the Tide returned to campus after winning its fifth NCAA Championship, and then on May 22 an F-5 tore through Joplin, Mo.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley will be on hand, as well Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and members of Tuscaloosa' Incident Command Team as well as representatives from Missouri's recovery efforts. Students from the three elementary schools that were destroyed during Tuscaloosa's April tornado have been invited to the meet as well.
Prior to the meet, Tuscaloosa Toyota will present a check for $12,400 to ReadBAMARead, an organization founded by Alabama assistant coach Dana Duckworth to help the three schools that were destroyed last spring rebuild their libraries one book at a time. Before the 2012 season got underway, David DeSantis and Tuscaloosa Toyota pledged $200 for each 9.8 or better score by Alabama gymnasts through UA's first three home meets of the season. Tide gymnasts tallied 62 such scores during that span.
In addition to remembering those affected by last spring's storms in both Alabama and Missouri and honoring everyone involved in the recovery effort ever since, the meet features two teams in the stretch run of the regular season.
Alabama is looking for its fifth 197-plus score of the season as it attempts to continue to move up in the rankings. Missouri is also looking for a high road score with an eye on moving up into the top-12 for a better seed going into the upcoming NCAA regional championships.
Alabama is led by seniors Geralen Stack-Eaton and Ashley Priess, who have combined to win 22 individual titles this season, while the Tigers are paced by senior Mary Burke, who is ranked ninth nationally in the all-around.
Tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum or online at RollTide.com.