Alabama gymnastics's 2011 season was almost perfect. They won the NCAA championship and the SEC championship. They even boasted an individual champion in Geralen Stack-Eaton, who secured the NCAA championship in the floor exercise. There was only one blemish on Alabama's seemingly perfect season, but it was glaring. The then No. 6 Tide had traveled to Gainesville to battle the Florida Gators, who were ranked No. 1 in the country at the time. The meet, which was expected to come down to the wire, ended up becoming a blowout. Florida defeated the Tide by over two full points with a score of 197.550 to 195.450. According to coach Sarah Patterson, the Tide had been distracted by the hype surrounding the meet.
"When we got down to Gainesville, everyone was watching this great Florida team, and we didn't focus on what we needed to do." said Patterson.
This time around the Alabama coaches urged their girls to not even watch the Gators performance.
"We told them, 'If it's a really great performance, we're going to see it at the finals of the NCAA Championships,'" Patterson said. "Let's just focus on what we're doing.'"
Needless to say, the Tide gymnasts took that message to heart Friday night and were able to avenge last season's loss with a resounding victory. Bolstered by Diandra Milliner's perfect 10.0 on the vault, the opening event of the meet, No. 6 Alabama posted the second highest score nationally this year and their highest since 2004, easily defeating the Gators 197.725-196.900 in front of 12,457 fans at Coleman Coliseum. Coach Patterson was quick to voice her pleasure.
"We've been pushed to the wire the last two weeks," Patterson said. "We just haven't been at our best. Now these ladies know what they're capable of. We can be even better than we were. We took every 10th (of a point). It's the first time we haven't had a major mistake on an event."
Milliner's 10.0 was the second of the season for the Crimson Tide. Stack-Eaton posted a perfect score on the vault in the season opening meet against Georgia. The highest praise for Milliner's score came from her perfect counterpart, who was also quick to offer praise to another squad mate's vault performance.
"I thought it was great," Stack-Eaton said of Milliner's perfect score. "I just think it shows how much potential we have. Marissa (Gutierrez) got a 9.95 tonight (on vault) and she has the potential to get a 10 as well. We just have a great vaulting team."
Alabama, who now improves to 6-0 and 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference, hits the road next Friday for their meet against Kentucky. The meet in Lexington is slated to start at 6 pm CT. After next week the Tide returns home to Tuscaloosa to prepare to face Arkansas in the eight Annual Power of Pink meet, which will bring focus to raising money and awareness for breast cancer research.