April 28, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
More than 2,000 fans were on hand as the University of Alabama gymnastics team celebrated its sixth NCAA Championship, and second in a row, in Coleman Coliseum Saturday.
Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, Director of Athletics Mal Moore and President Judy Bonner all congratulated the gymnasts, coaches and staff on the Tide's first back-to-back national championships. The night included videos of the season, awards and speeches.
"It's very difficult to be the best you can be as a team," Saban said. "This team, winning back-to-back championships, I can't tell you how proud I am and how I appreciate these young ladies for the hard work that they do, the great job that they've done in representing the University of Alabama and what their success have been over the last two years."
At the end of the celebration, as the pep band played, the gymnasts danced and sang along with the Alabama fight song as the air was filled with confetti. As the music changed to Queen's "We are the Champions" the Tide seniors doused head coach Sarah Patterson with a Gatorade barrel filled with confetti.
"Tonight is about honoring these 18 women who have achieved so much to continue our legacy, pride and tradition," Patterson said earlier in the night.
In addition to winning the 2012 NCAA Championship last Saturday in Duluth, Ga., Alabama also went undefeated in its regular-season Southeastern Conference slate for the first time since 1991 and won its NCAA-best 27th regional championship and advanced to its 30th consecutive NCAA Championships.
Senior Ashley Priess, who will return to the lineup next season as a redshirt senior, earned the Crimson Tide's highest honor, the Lewis Each Courage Award. She and senior Geralen Stack-Eaton and junior Ashley Sledge were voted tri-captains of this year's team.
"It was just such proud moment I think for all of us, that we truly worked together and created that night and that outcome," Priess said of the Tide's championship run. "It really was one of the most rewarding moments I've ever felt."
Stack-Eaton, the 2012 NCAA Central Region Gymnast of the Year, won her second individual NCAA Championships in as many years last Sunday when she took first on the balance beam in follow up to her 2011 national floor exercise title. The Tide's eight All-Americans - Priess, Sledge, Stack-Eaton, junior Marissa Gutierrez, sophomores Sarah DeMeo, Kim Jacob and Diandra Milliner and freshman Kayla Williams - were also honored during Saturday's 45-minute program.
The Tide's senior managers, Lauren Adair, Caleb Hooks and Russ Guin were presented with the David Dutton Memorial Award, given to those that go above and beyond for the gymnastics program.
Assistant coach Dana Duckworth, co-founder of ReadBAMARead, earned the David DeSantis Community Service Award. Sophomore Ria Domier was honored as a member of the SEC Community Service Team and senior Rachel Terry for winning her second consecutive NCAA Elite 89 Award, given annually to the gymnast highest grade point average at the national championship final site.
During a reception for the Tide's booster organization, the Medalist Club held immediately prior to the celebration, Lance Hocutt, the club's outgoing president, was presented with the Pat Huet Award.