By (Matthew Speakman)

Heading into the 2017 season, senior Katie Bailey had no idea how her final year would go. She was battling a hip injury and a surgery sidelined her from preparations for the upcoming season.

Bailey had to come to terms with the idea that she might spend her last year at Alabama as a spectator.

“At the beginning of the season we were really unsure of how my body was going to let me compete,” Bailey said. “…I wasn’t sure if I was going to 
compete at all.”

As the season drew closer, Bailey started to work her way back into the gym. The team wanted her to contribute, 
but it was about making sure her body was strong enough. She slowly worked in one event – uneven bars – then added two more: vault and floor.

Now, the one-time NCAA vault 
champion has overcome her injury and is a consistent contributor for the team. 
She ranks in the top 25 in the country on bars and vault.

“I knew that’s what my body needed, because I couldn’t just jump into it cause I wouldn’t have made it very far into the season if I was trying to do everything at once,” Bailey said. “At the same time, it was frustrating, because I want to be out there doing everything. I gotta 
listen to my body.”

Bailey and the rest of the senior class will be honored on Friday when the team takes on Iowa State. Bailey, Amanda Jetter, Keely McNeer, Mary Lillian Sanders, Aja Sims and Mackenzie Valentin all will step on the circle A for the final time in their careers.

This class marks a milestone in the program – it is the last class coached by Sarah and David Patterson.

“I’m very proud of how this senior class has really adapted,” said Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth. “They’ve taught me a lot. They’ve taught me a lot about leadership. With every class that’s 
further removed, it puts me in a situation to make it even more my own.”

Sims has been one of the most 
important gymnasts on the team this season as a senior. She currently is tied for 12th in the country on the floor exercise. Her routine is a showcase of her personality and the three words she lives by: Joy, Passion, Lit. She tries her best to use these three words when she 
performs her unique routine.

In fact, her favorite moment of her senior year was the first time she got to 
perform the routine in front of the home fans against LSU. That routine earned her a 9.9.

“I love that I got to put my own kind of choreography and spin on it and I think that’s why I’ve done so well,” Sims said. “I just make it my own.”

Sims wants to embrace the emotion of the evening. She and Bailey both said they want to focus on competing, then let the emotion take them. It is not only their last meet in Coleman. For most, it marks the beginning of the end for their 
gymnastics career.

Most of the gymnasts have been 
competing for their entire lives. All have plans to move on and pursue 
different types of careers. Bailey wants to go to nursing school. Jetter is earning her degree in human development and family studies. McNeer and Valentin will head to medical school. Sanders is joining the Marines. Sims is pursuing a career in sports management and hopes to 
be an agent.

Even though they are all moving on, Sims said she would go back and do it all again if she could.

“I want to go back to freshman year,” Sims said. “I joke around saying I’m just gonna come back as a freshman and start all over. It’s a growing up thing.”

While almost all of the seniors will compete in some way, one will have to watch during the actual competition. McNeer, who broke a bone in her hand in a car accident, will be sidelined due 
to injury.

McNeer has been Alabama’s leadoff in three events all season. Duckworth said McNeer will embrace her role with a 
positive attitude, and enjoy the moment even though she is not competing.

“The senior night is not about 
competing on senior night,” Duckworth said. “It’s the celebration of your four years of your career at Alabama.”

Alabama takes on Iowa State at 7:30 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports