After practice on Friday, Head Coach Sarah Patterson kicked off the Tide’s run in this year’s SEC Championships with a rousing declaration: “There is nothing like competing in the Southeastern Conference.”
Five of the nation's top 10 teams are from the SEC: 1. Florida, 3. Alabama, 5. Georgia, 8. LSU and 10. Arkansas. Auburn is ranked No. 15 and Kentucky is ranked No. 24. "It is the closest thing to the finals of the NCAA Championships that you can get," said Patterson, who can remember one year when five of the six teams in the NCAA finals were from the SEC.
Defending SEC, Regional and National Champions, Bama arrived at the SEC championships this weekend peaking at the right time. It is undefeated in SEC competition (6-0-0), boasting an overall 11-1-0 record (the only loss to No. 2 Oklahoma).
The Tide has never won back-to-back SEC titles. Senior Ashley Priess doesn’t dwell on what might happen, but on “mental toughness and being fierce.” She has a will-not-be-denied attitude: "We're reversing that mindset and putting that target on everyone else's back, and we're kind of coming into this meet with this revenge mindset of we want to go out there, we want to absolutely dominate the competition, team up, work together and get the job done.”
Alabama is led by the senior All-America and All-SEC duo of Ashley Priess and Geralen Stack-Eaton. Priess is a two-time SEC champion, winning the 2010 all-around and balance beam titles. Stack-Eaton won the balance beam and floor exercise titles last season, leading the Tide to the 2011 SEC team championship. Priess and Stack-Eaton were also integral to the Tide’s 2009 SEC Championship as freshmen. Alabama also returns five other gymnasts who have earned All-SEC honors, including juniors Ashley Sledge and Marissa Gutierrez and sophomores Kim Jacob, Sarah DeMeo and Diandra Milliner.
Coach Patterson has high praise for this Crimson Tide team, particularly for the seniors.
“I don’t think there are too many classes that can say everybody
in their class is an All-American, Scholastic All-American
and they’ve won all these championships.”
The SEC title meet begins at 4:00 p.m.ET. Live updates will be available from the SEC Digital Network.
Roll Tide, Ladies!