No. 6 Alabama went in to Friday night's eighth annual Power of Pink meet against No. 5 Arkansas already pumped up and looking for a victory. It has become a huge source of pride for the Tide gymnasts to win the annual meet, which is meant to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. Add to that already electric environment a sold-out crowd of 15,075 and a special ceremony honoring the 10th anniversary of the 2002 national championship team, and you have a squad that was hungrier than they had been all year for a victory. What could coach Sarah Patterson possibly do to pump her girls up anymore than they already were? How about having each girl stand beside a breast cancer survivor during her introduction? That's just what the Tide did, and, according to senior All-American Geralen Stack-Eaton, the gesture had the desired effect.
"Seeing all of the pink just kind of set the stage for tonight," Stack-Eaton said. "As we walked out with our survivors on our arm, it was just so inspiring to see them and what they've endured and how much they've fought through. That to me, I just think it set the bar for tonight."
Not surprisingly, after that touching introduction, Alabama proceeded to lead throughout the course of the meet to defeat the Razorbacks fairly easily by a score of 197.650-196.125. The Tide improves to 8-0 and 5-0 in the SEC, while the Hogs fall to 9-4 and 3-3 in the SEC. The highlight of the night came when Lora Leight Frost, a freshman performing in place of injured junior Ashley Sledge, brought the capacity crowd to their feet while scoring a career best 9.9 on the floor exercise. Even though Sledge was prepared to go if needed, Patterson elected to play it safe and start Frost in her place. Afterwards, the coach was pleased with the outcome.
"Ashley said she wasn't 100 percent, but that she could go, but this is where we have to make smart decisions," Patterson said. "This is where you've got to trust that teamwork. I told Lora Leigh, `This is your opportunity, go out there and grab it.' And she did."
Friday was also a big night for alumni of the Alabama gymnastics team, as more than 40 former gymnasts returned with their families to help celebrate the legacy they created. It is a message and a legacy that Patterson is pleased to celebrate.
"I told our ladies that the men and women who were introduced before the meet tonight laid the foundation for the wonderful tradition of excellence we have here with Alabama gymnastics," Patterson said.
Alabama travels to Baton Rouge next Friday for a meet against the LSU Tigers.