Peaking at the right time. It’s something Alabama gymnastics coach Dana Duckworth preaches all season.
Right now, No. 6 Alabama is on the way up at the right time near the middle of March. The team has earned a score of 197 or better in five of its last six meets.
It will need to keep that going Friday as No. 1 Oklahoma, the back-to-back national champion, comes to Coleman Coliseum.
“It allows us to know that we have to show up and give our absolute best,” Duckworth said.
This will mark the second-straight season Oklahoma and Alabama have faced off. Last year, it came at the beginning of the season and Duckworth had not seen her team compete yet.
This year, it will be the last meet of the regular season, and Alabama is hitting its stride. Duckworth will use the Oklahoma meet as a measuring stick before the postseason meets.
“We want to compete at the national championship against the best,” Duckworth said. “The regular season is such an advantage. No matter what the outcome is, it’s about what we can learn from it.”
Oklahoma will be a challenge, but not an unfamiliar one.
Not only has Alabama scheduled the Sooners two years in a row, but other top programs as well. Alabama faced off against UCLA, a top-five team at the time, in 2016, Oklahoma again in 2015 again and Stanford, a top-10 team, in 2014.
Alabama takes no breaks when it comes to building a tough schedule.
“The more you compete against the best, the better you can strive for excellence,” Duckworth said. “Really, what Alabama gymnastics wants to do is set our own bar.”
The emotion of another tough home meet will be mixed with personal emotion.
The seniors will be honored before the home crowd. Nicki Guerrero, Kiana Winston and Mackenzie Brannan have contributed to Alabama since their first year with the team.
Brannan suffered an Achilles injury and will not compete, but as always, Alabama will lean on Guerrero and Winston to produce big in multiple events.
Duckworth wants her seniors to feed off of the emotion. A win would make a statement, but just a strong performance would build confidence.
“More than anything, this is the kind of environment that you crave and prepare for,” Duckworth said.