TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson has shuffled her lineup all season, searching for the perfect combination that can carry her team to a third consecutive NCAA championship.
Young gymnasts such as freshman Lauren Beers or sophomores Lora Leigh Frost, Kaitlyn Clark and Kayla Williams have all seen the floor. When senior Ashley Priess is held out of certain events to protect her fragile ankles, others fill in.
But through all of the changes, one thing has remained the same. Junior Kim Jacob has competed in all four events at every meet in 2013, giving Patterson a stable option in an ever-changing lineup.
"Kim is just 'Steady Eddie,' " Patterson said. "She is the best."
Jacob entered the season a four-time All-American and has improved even further as her role has increased. She's already broken career highs in three events in 2013 and tied her career high on the all-around last Sunday at Florida.
Competing on all four events week-in and week-out takes a toll on the body, so Patterson has had to lighten Jacob's load during the week. While most of the team will have a full day in practice, she is held back so that days of a full practice fall on meet days.
"It's definitely tiring competing all-around every week," Jacob said. "But the coaches are really good about making sure I don't over-practice throughout the week so that I'm energized every weekend. I'm just honored to be able to compete all-around."
Jacob's work ethic stands out to her coaches and teammates. Before Alabama's home opener against LSU, Patterson said that she had to cut Jacob off of some of her workouts over the summer.
"She's awesome in the gym and just as awesome outside of the gym," senior Marissa Gutierrez said. "She comes in every day, never complains, never has anything negative to say and works her tail off all the time."
Gutierrez is Jacob's roommate. Gutierrez said that off of the gym floor, Jacob has opened up more, which has enabled her to become a vocal leader on the team. And sometimes, when the pair takes a rare break from the daily grind of being an Alabama gymnast, the two will just sit on their couch and watch "Law and Order" all weekend.
"Each year she's come out of her shell a little bit more," Gutierrez said. "She was very quiet her freshman year, just kind of laid back and soaked everything in. As the years have gone by, she's definitely come out of her shell and been more outspoken and more willing to go do things she wouldn't normally do."