Beam Queens: Alabama Gymnastics climbs to the top of the beam rankings


Four inches.

It is the width of a balance beam in NCAA gymnastics. Every gymnastics event is challenging and impressive, but the ability to perform these kinds of skills on this small space might be the most impressive. The average person would struggle to balance on anything four inches wide for any period of time, let alone twist, turn, jump and flip on that four inch device. .

Still, it’s nothing new for the Alabama gymnasts who have trained at this event most of their lives, and the balance beam is a challenge this year’s team has fully embraced and mastered. slowly week after week.

“I love competing, but I would say beam is definitely my favorite event,” said all-around junior Mati Waligora. “I think it’s just the thrill of being on a four-inch piece of wood, and just knowing that you’ve prepared and done all the training and being confident up there. It’s really a thrill. It’s so much fun.”

The Crimson Tide is ranked No. 7 overall nationwide but No. 3 on balance beam. Junior Luisa Blanco has anchored the beam rotation in every meet this season and ranks second in the nation on apparatus.

Twice this season, both times on the road in rowdy environments, Alabama has posted scores of 49.625 or better on balance beam with at least five gymnasts scoring a 9.9 or better. The first was in Auburn on January 28 when the team closed the competition with a 49.650, the second-highest beam score in program history. Most recently, Alabama scored a 49.625 at LSU with all six gymnasts scoring 9.9 or better.

Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth is the event coach for the balance beam and was a balance beam specialist herself as a gymnast at Alabama. She said consistency in practice is what has led to the great performances to close out competitions on the road.

“The way they’ve behaved since the second pre-season started at all the pressure sets and the environments that we try to create in the gym, and then every encounter presented an opportunity, and they took advantage of it,” said said Duckworth. “It hasn’t been perfect, but they have a lot of faith and confidence in them, and that’s what we want for all four events. And that’s where it comes from. We have great workers on beam, and it’s fun to train.”

Duckworth really feels like he has eight or nine gymnasts capable of posting consistent scores of 9.9 or better, but the roster that has started to settle is junior Ella Burgess in the lead, Olympian Shallon Olsen in the second slot, senior Lexi Graber goes third, Waligora fourth, rookie Lilly Hudson fifth and NCAA individual beam champion Blanco anchoring the rotation.

Shallon Olsen, gymnast from Alabama
Lexi Graber on beam
Tri-meet Mati Waligora
Lilly Hudson
Luisa Blanco on beam

Alabama has shown its abilities on the balance beam and the other three events this season, but Duckworth wants to see a meet where the Crimson Tide hosts all four events on the same night. (Alabama is ranked third on beam, fourth on bars, and eighth on floor and vault.) His team basically did it in the triple meet against North Carolina and West Michigan on Feb. 4, but the next opportunity comes this Friday night at 5 against Missouri at home inside the Coleman Coliseum.

Since this is a home meet, Alabama will start on vault before moving on to uneven bars and then beam before closing things out on floor. The last event the Crimson Tide completed was 49.625 on beam against LSU, and Graber wants to carry that momentum into the game against Missouri.

“I think we just have to build that into every event we put on, because I think we’re capable of going over 49,500 across the four events,” Graber said. “And so I think it’s important to carry that confidence into the first event, the jump this week, and to know that we’re capable of doing that in every event.”


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