Even though there was still a rotation to go Friday night, the season was on the line for the Alabama gymnastics team. Having already experienced a fall on balance beam, another by one of its final three competitors would have eliminated the Crimson Tide from Saturday’s Super Six in St. Louis, where the national title would be decided.
Previously it had been a solid night for the No. 6 Crimson Tide, but with Nebraska also finishing in the fifth rotation and having posted a season-best score, it was all or nothing for Alabama
It got all.
Freshman Maddie Desch scored 9.8. Junior Kiana Winston topped it with a 9.8875. Junior Nickie Guerrero, an All-American on balance beam during the regular season, locked a top-three finish for the Crimson Tide with her 9.8625.
SEC schools swept the session. No. 2 LSU won the semifinal with an impressive 198.275 score, to set an NCAA Championships record. It finished ahead of No. 3 Florida (197.8125) and Alabama (197.6), which advanced to the Super Six for the 23rd time in its 25-year history.
No. 1 Oklahoma won the first semifinal, held earlier in the day at Chaifetz Arena, with a score of 197.725. The reigning champions advanced along with UCLA (197.5) and Utah (197.05).
Alabama senior Katie Bailey finished with six-way tie for the bars individual title. Among those who also scored 9.95 in the event was Florida’s Alex McMurtry, the all-around champion.
Although Alabama finished second to No. 7 Michigan at the Morgantown Regional two weeks ago, this time the Crimson Tide didn’t have to worry about the Wolverines.
Alabama opened the meet on floor exercise and led by Winston’s 9.9375 scored a solid 49.3875. It followed with a 49.3625 on vault to enter its first bye riding some momentum while Georgia struggled through its first two events (beam and floor) and Michigan had trouble getting through beam.
Following Alabama through the rotation schedule, LSU scored 49.7125 on floor and 49.5625 on vault to establish itself as the team to beat, while Nebraska stayed on Alabama’s heels for third.
Alabama’s best event was bars in the fourth rotation (49.4875 ). In addition to Bailey’s top score, senior Keely McNeer’s 9.90 was matched by Winston, and nearly by senior Amanda Jetter (9.8875).
That set up the dramatic fifth rotation. Shortly after senior Aja Sims scored 9.925, Alabama’s margin for error vanished with sophomore Abby Armbrecht’s fall while Nebraska closed out on vault for a 197.2125 team score.
Saturday’s Super Six is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET and will be shown on ESPNU.