Abby Armbrecht is a stranger to the balance beam. She has only competed in the event once this season- on the road against Arkansas.
Moments before she started her first beam routine in front of the home fans, her head coach had a simple message for her to calm her nerves.
“I definitely felt the butterflies,” Armbrecht said. “Before I went, Dana (Duckworth) told me expect the butterflies and just know that means something great is about to happen.”
Armbrecht’s butterflies seemed to leave her as soon as she stepped on the beam. The sophomore, who usually only competes on vault, posted a 9.85. Earlier, she tied her season-best score in her usual event with a 9.875.
Duckworth was pleased to see Armbrecht deliver in No. 4 Alabama’s 196.925-196.675 win over No. 12 Boise State.
“It just makes me proud of her. She has put in a lot of work,” Duckworth said. “Abby has probably come further than any gymnast we have right now. I just want her build off of that.”
Armbrecht’s beam performance was not the only thing that gave her joy. Nastia Liukin, an Olympic gold medalist in the all-around for USA, was in attendance. Armbrecht said meeting one of her idols was like a dream come true.
“I adored Nastia when I was watching the Olympics in 2008, so that was really cool,” Armbrecht said. “She was like my childhood idol. I love her.”
On a night where Alabama decided to rest all-around threat Kiana Winston, gymnasts like Armbrecht were forced to step up if it meant victory. Ari Guerra, one of Alabama’s more consistent floor performers, was another one of those gymnasts.
Guerra finished with a 9.875 on the floor in a routine that embraces the energy of the crowd.
“I go all out and use the crowd, use my eyes and use my energy from the teammates and coaches,” Guerra said. “It’s just an amazing feeling when you finally finish and then, my finish pose I’m just like ‘Hold it, because I just did awesome.’”
Alabama also used Guerra to test its depth. She went exhibition on the uneven bars- an event she hasn’t competed in for a while.
“You can have the opportunity to go all in, no matter what,” Guerra said of going exhibition. “Putting in the hard work every single day around my teammates and they continue to lift me to be where I am. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on bars.”
Alabama does not get the opportunity to use its gymnasts in this way very often. With many of its meets being televised, it takes away the opportunity to let gymnasts test their skills in certain events.
Duckworth said the team has a criteria for deciding who gets to go exhibition in these meets.
“It basically comes down to who has been the most consistent and who has earned to be able to go exhibition,” Duckworth said. “At the end of the day, you want as many people ready for when you’re called on.”
Tonight’s meet was not smooth for all of Alabama’s gymnasts. Senior Aja Sims fell on bars and tied a season-low 9.7 on the balance beam.
Even after multiple mistakes, Sims bounced back to give Alabama its best score in the floor exercise with a 9.925. The crowd booed when she didn’t receive a 10.
“When she finished the floor routine, I went over to her and said ‘Aja, it wasn’t a perfect night, but you finished strong, and you gotta continue to know that no matter what happens, you gotta keep pushing it’” Duckworth said.
Next up, Alabama will travel to Athens, Ga. on March 5 to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in a return to SEC play . The meet will start at 1 p.m. and will be televised on SEC Network.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports