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February 15, 2012
GYMNASTICS: Tide readies for No. 5 Arkansas
TUSCALOOSA | After a weekend on the road, the No. 6 University of Alabama gymnastics team returns home for its eighth annual "Power of Pink" meet. Making its second appearance in one of Alabama's pink meets is No. 5 Arkansas, which was ranked No. 1 earlier in the season.
While Alabama's score of 196 at Kentucky wasn't its highest of the season, the team still thought it had good a performance.
"I think overall, the scoring was probably a little bit lower, but overall it's good for us to have meets like that because every meet is going to be different, and they're going to score differently at every competition," UA senior Ashley Priess said. "Down the road at later meets, they might overall just lower the score standard a little bit, so it's important for us to not focus on the scores and just focus on doing our best routine."
But with Arkansas and Alabama ranked closely skill-wise, this is another big meet on the Tide's schedule.
"Arkansas is having a great season, probably the best season that they've ever had in their program," junior Ashley Sledge said. "We're having a fantastic season as well, and we are definitely ready for the competition on Friday."
Arkansas' gymnastics program is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. Alabama coach Sarah Patterson said that 11 years ago, a University of Arkansas plane brought athletic department officials to Tuscaloosa to see how Alabama's gymnastics program was run.
"In 10 years, they built a program that can contend for an SEC and a national championship," Patterson said.
Former Alabama gymnast Michelle Reeser Newberry was among those to compete against Arkansas in its first year.
"It was kind of crazy adding another team to the SEC, but I can remember going to compete at Arkansas, and they had such a great crowd for a first-year team," she said. "It was a lot of fun."
This is alumnae weekend, and while the "Power of Pink" meet and alumni weekend have coincided before, this year there's something extra. This meet will also be a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the 2002 national championship team.
Newberry, who competed on beam and floor from 2002-05, is one of the alumnae who has returned for the celebration. While she has season tickets for gymnastics, alumnae weekend is a great chance for her to see all her old friends and her coach again.
"The group of girls that I was close to have been emailing for months, talking about when are we getting in, where are we staying," she said. "So to come in and celebrate the 10th anniversary, which is just absolutely crazy, is really exciting. It's laid back. You don't have the pressure of competing or performing. It's literally they're your family, and you're coming back to hang out."