When freshman Wynter Childers arrived at Coleman Coliseum on Friday night, she was not expecting to to have any firsts. She was still getting used to competing after recovering from an ACL tear she suffered at the end of her club career.
After senior Aja Sims expressed concussion-like symptoms during warm-ups, the team turned to Childers. She competed all-around for the first time as only a freshman.
“[Competing all-around] is something I’ve been working really hard [to do] and the coaches have really been helping me coming back from an injury,” Childers said. “I didn’t expect to come back this fast.”
Childers’ all-around score of 39.300- including a 9.85 in her first collegiate floor routine- helped Alabama to a 197.350-196.450 victory over Auburn. Junior Kiana Winston is usually the only gymnast to compete all-around, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
Childers was told she was going to be in the team’s floor rotation during warm ups. For her, it was something she had been waiting to do even before she got to Alabama.
“I had only been to one meet [at Coleman Coliseum] when I getting recruited here,” Childers said. “Watching floor, I was like ‘I wanna do that. I wanna do that so bad.’ Seeing everybody compete here, and then finally actually being able to do it, I was so excited.”
When the moment came for her to do floor in place of Sims, Childers was ready. Watching others compete so often in the event only made her want to contribute more.
Having a freshman step up and compete in all four events was key in the Crimson Tide’s victory, said head coach Dana Duckworth.
“She is a great example of someone who has a great deal of inner drive,” Duckworth said. “Very much like Keely [McNeer]…Both of them want to contribute. They want to make a difference. That internal drive is just who they are.”
Childers’ all-around performance may have been a shake-up for the team’s lineup, but one thing remained consistent: McNeer led the team off on three events. She posted two 9.875s in both the uneven bars and balance beam.
McNeer has been one of Alabama’s leaders all season. Duckworth trusts her to get the team started on multiple events. As a senior, McNeer was impressed to see Childers, as well as the other freshman, step into big roles.
“After four years of doing this, you get into a routine of doing it,” McNeer said. “Half of the fun for me is watching how they’re soaking it in and realizing how great it is and how fun it is. I mean can’t say enough, like Dana was saying, of their drive and their passion.”
Outside of Childers and McNeer, Alabama got big performances from familiar faces. Junior Nickie Guerrero, who ranks fourth in the country on the balance beam, posted Alabama’s best score in any event with a 9.975 on the beam.
Winston once again proved to be one of Alabama’s strongest gymnasts, going 9.925 on both the balance beam and floor. Freshman Maddie Desch also posted another big score in the floor routine with a 9.9
With the victory, Alabama continues its undefeated streak against Auburn in Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide now leads Auburn 120-10 in the all-time series.
When asked how the win against Auburn felt, Duckworth gave a huge win and simply said, “Pretty good.” She believes the rivalry is strong because of the quality of both teams.
“What is beautiful for the sport of gymnastics is you have two of the top programs in the country in the same state,” Duckworth said. “If that can drive little girls in the state of Alabama to want to be them, I think it helps all of us.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports