5 Takeaways Heading into Regionals
The Alabama gymnastics team had quite an adventure getting to Seattle where they will compete Thursday in the NCAA Regional Gymnastics Competition.
1. Emergency landing
The team took a bus to the Atlanta airport to avoid having a layover enroute to Seattle. However, the flight had to make an emergency landing in Denver. Reports from CBS Denver claim the flight ran into an issue with the cabin pressure which "caused the oxygen masks to drop." It is unknown what caused the issue. The incident happened late Monday night.
Alabama gymnasts made the best out of the situation and played UNO, stretched and continued to bond during the layover. The team landed in Seattle early Tuesday morning and spent most of the day resting.
2. Luisa Blanco injury update
Junior Luisa Blanco went down with an ankle injury at the SEC Championship meet. Duckworth previously said she was hopeful Blanco would be ready to compete for Regionals, but they were taking it day-by-day. Luckily for Alabama fans, it sounds like Blanco's made big strides in recovery as Duckworth said the team plans to use her on the uneven bars in Thursday's competition and continue to monitor her progress.
"It's really all about how she recovers. We did go to a local gym today (Wednesday). We worked a little bit just because we hadn't done anything since Sunday. I think that was very beneficial, and I felt like her movement patterns were a lot better. We're just gonna stay hopeful that everything goes well and she'll be able to do more when we get to Fort Worth." -Duckworth
Duckworth also noted that her ankle swelled a little after traveling for so long, but the medical staff has done a good job of getting the swelling down.
3. Exploring Seattle
For some gymnasts, it's their first time being on the west coast, and they're making the most of it. Fifth-year senior Lexi Graber said Seattle is the furthest she's been from Tuscaloosa. The team went to dinner Tuesday night and did some shopping. Graber said she hopes to see the Space Needle and check out the original Starbucks while in Seattle. She also said there's a lot of cute coffee shops to visit as well.
Exploring a new city with your best friends is always exciting. The girls took advantage of the new sights to see by having mini-photoshoots around Seattle.
4. Preparing for the Big Stage
This year's Regionals has a different format than in years past. The top two teams from the afternoon and evening sessions on Thursday advance to the Regional Finals which are on Saturday. In prior years, the teams competed two days in a row. This Alabama gymnastics team got a taste of what the Regional's format felt like when they competed against Arkansas on a Friday night and Elevate the Stage Sunday afternoon. The team improved each week and are peaking at the right time. Keeping their composure and not trying to overperform will be key in having success at Regionals.
"This group of women, they know what they're doing," Duckworth said. "They have the competitive experience."
5. New faces in the lineups
Duckworth mixed the lineups around a lot during the beginning of the season, but as it progressed the lineups were more consistent. Expect Regionals to be no different; however, with Blanco only being able to compete on bars, other gymnasts will step into her place on the floor, beam, and vault rotations. Senior Griffin James hasn't performed in an actual competition since the 2021 season, but Duckworth hinted that we might see her at some point this weekend.
"Obviously, if Luisa's only doing bars, she has been contributing on those three other events, and we're very blessed to have Shania (Adams), Mati (Waligora), Griffin (James) right there to step in on a variety of events," Duckworth said.
She also noted that every gymnast will warm up and she will put together the best lineups with the "least amount of change."
Alabama competes Thursday at 3 p.m. on ESPN+. Should Alabama advance, the team will compete Saturday at 7 p.m.