TUSCALOOSA — Alabama required a sizeable surge in the second half to beat Georgia. Minkah Fitzpatrick was present.
No football field — or appearance from Tua Tagovailoa — was in sight.
The Crimson Tide gymnastics team recovered from a scary injury and unsightly first rotation to roll past the GymDogs, 196.525-194.525 in its home-opener on Friday evening in a meet it trailed after two rotations.
One week after opening its season with a disappointing 195.675 in Ann Arbor against Michigan, Alabama improved its rotation scores by at least three tenths of a point on each of its final three events — uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise — after faltering on vault.
"That was an incredible example of teamwork. There was adversity, there was certain people not being able to go, someone stepping in, we got behind at some point," Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said. "They just kept fighting and there was a great deal of consistency, a great deal of confidence and we were attacking."
Crimson Tide sophomore Wynter Childers captured the all-around title with a 39.325, buoyed by a 9.875 on balance beam.
Hers was one four scores of 9.85 or higher before its anchor — Nickie Guerrero — took the beam. She scored a 9.85 to cap a 49.350 rotation, the third-highest beam score by any team in the country through Friday’s results.
Preceding beam was a 49.400 on uneven bars — Alabama scored just a 49.150 last week — highlighted by a 9.900 from Arianna Guerra in the second slot and a 9.850 from Kylie Dickson in the fourth spot to, again, set up the two anchors. Kiana Winston scored a 9.925 and Mackenzie Brannan ended with a 9.900
"That's what so exciting about this team,” Duckworth said. “We have the ability to have all six routines literally go 9.85 or better. Not always do you have a team that you know, if you do your absolute best, that they'll go 9.9. We're in that situation right now."
Things started slow. Alabama mustered just a 48.600 on its opening rotation.
Vaulting in the fifth spot, Lexi Graber’s knees locked, causing her to sit her landing. She was unable to leave the floor under her own power, carried into the locker room with a leg injury about which Duckworth had no update after the meet.
The Crimson Tide was forced to count Graber’s 9.30, though, toward its vault rotation score — requiring the resurgence it received on its next three events.
Junior Abby Armbrecht filled in for Lexi Graber in the Tide’s beam rotation, scoring a 9.85 to set up the two anchor routines. She had a 9.775 last week on balance beam against Michigan
"I was a little bit nervous, I felt the butterflies for sure," Armbrecht said. "But I train like that every day in practice and I just needed to go in and do what I do in practice every single day. I told Lexi before I went up that I had her back. I did it for her."
Graber’s injury notwithstanding, Duckworth was ecstatic about the progress the Crimson Tide achieved against Georgia — its fiercest competitor in the 90s that’s now a shell of itself under a first-year head coach, Courtney Kupets Carter, who has no coaching experience at any level.
"All the things that we wanted to improve on from last week to this week," Duckworth said, "I think we nailed it."