AUBURN – It took more than 36 years, but it finally happened. The No. 4 Alabama gymnastic team’s 117-meet streak over No. 8 Auburn came to an end Friday night as the Tigers celebrated a 197.275 to 197.250 victory.
Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth said that immediately after the meet, she and associate head coach Bryan Raschilla took a moment to themselves in the locker room to let it all out. One quick yell was all it took.
“I’ve been a part of the Alabama-Auburn rivalry for 22 years,” Duckworth said. “I certainly didn’t want to be the one that lost to Auburn after the transition took place, but it happened. But you know what? It happened, now let’s start another streak, and move on.”
Going into the final rotation, Alabama held a 0.100 lead. It scored a 49.375 on the vault, a 49.225 on the uneven bars and a 49.350 on the floor exercise.
Duckworth called her team together before it could start anything balance beam related.
“We just breathed in, saying, ‘I’m confident,’ breath out, ‘beyond reason,’ because that’s what we needed to do,” Duckworth said. “We talked about just having one skill at a time and really selling the finish of those skills and what have you.”
Keely McNeer followed her coach’s advice. She led off, nailed her landing and scored a season-best 9.900.
Then, things started to get shaky. Alabama had a few routines and dismounts that faced a few hiccups. A hop here, a wobble there, and Alabama’s lead grew slimmer with each.
“I talked to them about having ice cold veins no matter what happens,” Duckworth said. “If something happens before you, after your or in between you, it doesn’t matter. Have that ice cold mentality, go out there and do your job.”
Mackenzie Brannan’s dismount started it, but she wasn’t alone. The hops and wobbles continued for the gymnasts who followed.
Nickie Guerrero was Alabama’s anchor for the night. She scored a 9.850, finalizing Alabama’s 49.350 balance beam score, and the Crimson Tide’s final score of 197.250 was locked in.
Duckworth knew Alabama wasn’t up by much at that point and Auburn’s last floor exercise performer, Caitlin Atkinson, has been performing well this season.
“I just took a deep breath and just kind of processed that this could be the moment,” she said. “That’s all I really could do at that point.”
A 9.900 would have tied the meet. Atkinson scored a 9.925. Auburn won. The arena erupted, marking the start of the moment Duckworth was trying to process seconds before.
Brannan and Katie Bailey competed all-around for Alabama. Bailey scored a 39.425, Brannan scored a 39.400, and Auburn’s Atkinson took first with a 39.650.
Atkinson tied for or won first place in each event. Guerrero, Brannan and Lauren Beers matched Atkinson’s 9.900 on the vault. Bailey, along with Auburn’s Abby Milliet, tied Atkinson’s 9.900 on the uneven bars. But no one could touch her 9.925 on the balance beam and her 9.925 on the floor exercise.
“This one hurts,” Duckworth said. “I’m not going to lie. This hurts, and our ladies started strong, they stayed strong, and they finished strong. I felt like our performance was the best performance here tonight. There’s certain things you can’t control, and all I can tell to these ladies is that we’re going to let the way we live our lives determine who we are and what we are, not the outcome of an event like this.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports