UA Gymnastics begins quest for sixth national title on Friday night

DULUTH, Ga. – In the now familiar confines of the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga., the No. 4-seeded Alabama gymnastics team went through its final practice prior to the start of the NCAA Championships which gets underway Friday.

"Today was all about adjustment," UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. "Getting your steps down, getting your timing, feeling the balance of the equipment and we were done with time to spare. Knowing that we have 15 minutes tomorrow, you don't want to overdo it today because you've got a long night tomorrow."

The Crimson Tide went through a 90-minute practice, adjusting to the equipment, which is positioned on four-foot podiums in the center of the arena.

Alabama and the other four Southeastern Conference teams that are among the 12 teams that advanced here to the championships final site, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Arkansas  competed here at last month's conference championships on the same podium.

In addition to being familiar with its surroundings, the podium and the equipment, the Tide is also quite familiar with the overall NCAA Championship environment. This is Alabama's 30th consecutive appearance at the national championships final site under coaches Sarah and David Patterson.

"We're as excited to be here this year as we were about taking our first team to the national championships in 1983," Sarah Patterson said. "It never gets old and we never take it for granted."

Alabama is one of just two teams with a current NCAA appearance streak of more than 12 years in a row. The Tide advanced to this year's championship by winning the NCAA Seattle Regional with a 197.025. Alabama's 27 regional titles in an NCAA record.

In addition to practice, the Tide took care of its media obligations on Thursday, with several members of the Alabama contingent taking part in a video shoot with ESPN as well as talking to local and national media.

Thursday night also included the NCAA Championship banquet, after which the Tide returned to the host hotel to get ready for Friday's semifinals. Alabama is in the second semifinal session, which gets underway at 6 p.m. EDT, along with No. 1 seed Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Oregon State and Ohio State.

The first semifinal session, which gets underway at 1 p.m. EDT, includes UCLA, Oklahoma, Utah, Stanford, Nebraska and LSU. The top three teams from each semifinal session advances to the NCAA Super Six Team Finals, which will be held Saturday at 4 p.m. EDT.