By (Terrin Waack)

The No. 4 Alabama (3-3) gymnastics team is over halfway through its regular season. With only five meets on its journey to the SEC Championships, the Crimson Tide will get two out of the way this weekend as it travels to No. 8 Auburn on Friday and returns home to host No. 24 West Virginia on Sunday for Valentine’s Day.

Coach Dana Duckworth said the season is flying by, and at the mid-season mark, the team is its typical banged up self with little injuries here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary. With those in mind, Duckworth has an idea of what she wants this weekend’s lineup to look like, but nothing is for sure until the day of the meet arrives.

“That’s the hardest part, you don’t have a crystal ball to know how they’re going to wake up, how they’re doing to feel, what’s going to happen this week,” Duckworth said.

The coaches are paying close attention to junior Amanda Jetter’s and freshman Ari Guerra’s ankles, along with sophomore Kiana Winston’s hamstring.

“The list goes one,” Duckworth said. “It gets scary, but it’s all manageable.”

Also, Carley Sims is back. The senior has not competed since Alabama’s first meet against UCLA where she competed on the vault, the balance beam and the floor exercise. The following meet against Missouri, Sims was there, but she absent from the competition due to an ankle injury. She was seen wearing a boot on her left foot during the Arkansas meet.

Duckworth said if everything goes well, Sims should definitely be back in the lineup on Sunday, maybe even on Friday, but nothing is for sure just yet.

Although Duckworth mentioned her hamstring, Winston said she’s feeling pretty good physically and is trying not to push herself too hard, for a good reason.

“They’re saving me for something later on in the season, so I really have to communicate with the coaches and our trainer, Monica [Kirkpatrick], who really keeps me together in as little pieces as possible,” Winston said.

Having to hold back isn’t something Winston is used to, and it’s been hard. Winston said at her old gym, she was always told what she needed to do and that there was no time off. At Alabama, she has learned to train smarter and said she has to remember to trust the process, which will come in handy this weekend.

“It’s just we have to be smarter about the quantity that we do because now, it’s all about quality,” she said. “We really have to put it all together and make the Bama gymnastics four events the best that we can do, so that just means watching out numbers but at the same time, making it that ‘it’ factor that we need.”

This isn’t the first two-meet weekend for Alabama. It took on Missouri Jan. 15 and, like this weekend, Auburn on Jan. 17, where the Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers, 196.875 to 196.075, for its second annual Elevate The Stage meet.

The way Duckworth looks at the weekend: compete on Friday, train on Sunday -just like any other week.

“It’s just that we’re training under a little more of the bright lights,” she said. “It’s not much different. It’s compete Friday, train Sunday.”

Friday’s meet at Auburn will start at 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s meet back at home against West Virginia will start of 3 p.m., and Duckworth is extra excited to spend Sunday competing at home in front of the team’s fans.

“What else are you going to do on Valentine’s Day at 3 o’clock?” Duckworth said.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports