By (Terrin Waack)

It started against Auburn on Feb. 12 when the Alabama gymnastics team lost by 0.025, snapping its 117-winning streak over the Tigers. From that point on, the Crimson Tide focused on where that 0.025 could be found, and with the exception of LSU, Alabama won the rest of its regular 
season meets.

But that fraction of a point returned and prevented No. 4 Alabama from reclaiming its SEC Championship title on March 26. The two-time defending champion posted a season-best 197.750, but Florida’s score was higher – 0.025 higher.

“We’re focused on how do we find that 0.025, because if everybody added 0.025, you’re a 198-plus team,” coach Dana Duckworth said. “That is what our coaches believe this team is capable of, and I believe they believe it too.”

The search for that extra 0.025 is different for each gymnast. Duckworth said for some, it is found through repetition; for others, they need to be put under pressure by creating scenarios that fit their individual plans of attack.

Sophomore Mackenzie Brannan prefers quality to quantity. She said she does fewer repetitions and instead, takes her time mentally, making sure each turn she takes counts. She focuses on technique and believes the outcome will take care of itself, as long as her technique is there.

“My 0.025 is usually in the landings, especially on the beam, and getting all the way vertical on my handstands and hitting good technique on the vault,” she said.

Brannan posted a career-high 9.95 at the SEC Championships to add to her other career-high scores of a 9.975 on the uneven bars, a 9.985 on the balance beam and a 9.925 on the floor 
exercise. She also competes all-around, with a 
career-high of 39.525.

“We have a job to do – that’s what we’ve been focusing on, all the little things in the gym,” Brannan said. “Our main focus is to go out there and not hold back, because you’ll have no regrets if you do everything you can, and so that’s what we’re focused on.”

While Brannan has her own methods for improvement, fellow sophomore Kiana Winston dabbles in a little bit of everything and does whatever the coaches suggest depending on what can be fixed.

Rather than picking out select details that need polishing, Winston said she finds her 0.025 by focusing on the gifts God gave her and how they can be used to help her team.

“I’m a bit of a perfectionist,” she said. “It sometimes gets the best of me, but now that I’m being all in and focusing on ‘I get to do this’ rather than ‘I have to do this,’ everything is changed for 
the better.”

Winston has competed once all-around, scoring a 39.375 at Auburn. She has career-high scores of 9.9 on the vault, 9.975 on the uneven bars, 9.875 on the balance beam and 9.975 on the floor exercise. She was also named first-team All-American for the uneven bars on Monday.

Along with Winston, junior Aja Sims earned first-team All-American for the balance beam and senior Lauren Beers was named second-team All-American for the vault.

Brannan and Winston believe the team had strong practices leading up to regionals, but regardless of how hard the team works, sometimes the little things aren’t there and can’t be 
easily fixed.

“I will say during practice this week, I had some frustrations because I thought, ‘Well, why isn’t this going the way I want this to be going?’ ” Duckworth said. “I had to step back for a second and realize I was a gymnast too. I’ve been in their shoes too, and you almost have to give them a break and refocus on putting your emphasis on the right syllable.”

It’s not about achieving perfection. Duckworth believes the teams that adapt, adjust and overcome things thrown at them – and do so quickly – will find the most success.

If Alabama goes into the weekend as fresh as it possibly can and focuses on that 0.025, then Duckworth is confident the Crimson Tide will 
find success.

“You find five people that’ll find that 0.025, you’re golden,” Duckworth said.

Across the country, there are six regional meets, and Saturday afternoon, Alabama will host one in Coleman Coliseum, marking the 14th time in program history. The Crimson Tide will compete against California, Boise State, Kentucky, West Virginia and Bowling Green.

As the No. 1 seed, Alabama will start on a bye before heading to the uneven bars.

“I’ve always had this thought: you got to compete all four events,” Duckworth said. “It doesn’t matter what order you do them in; you got to compete them. The idea is no matter what you have to do, go out there, give it your all [and] leave nothing on the table. No regrets.”

Alabama holds an NCAA-best 30 regional titles and has advanced to the NCAA Championships 33 years in a row. It hopes to continue that run on April 15 at this year’s championship in Ft. Worth, Texas. To do so, the Crimson Tide has to finish as a top-two team on Saturday.

At the SEC Championships, Alabama’s word was fire and it resulted in a season-high score, so for regionals, senior Carley Sims has one message for her team.

“Now it’s time to burn the ashes again.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports