Sarah Patterson remembers the moment she understood the importance of the Alabama-Auburn rivalry.
“Years ago, we walked into [Auburn’s gym] for warm ups and they were playing the tape delay of the Punt Bama Punt game,” Alabama’s head gymnastics coach said. “That’s how important [this rivalry] is. We walked into a gymnastics meet and they were playing the football version of how Auburn beat us.
“If you ask the one thing that stands out in my mind of why this rivalry is so important, that’s what I’ll always remember.”
This was a meet back in the early 1980s when Patterson was “young and didn’t necessarily understand the rivalry” quite yet.
“But when I heard that football rendition, I got it,” she said.
After back-to-back road losses to ninth-ranked Georgia and top-ranked Florida, No. 5 Alabama gets to stay at home tonight in the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum to host No. 15 Auburn.
Despite the recent losses, the Crimson Tide posted its top two scores the past two weekends against Georgia (196.950) and Florida (196.850).
“While we hate losing, I think that the Florida meet was our best meet so far this season and I think we can take the steps from that meet and have a breakout performance this weekend,” Patterson said. “We’re still the No. 5 team in the country right now and we have not nearly hit our peak.”
Patterson explained that her team needs to improve its landings, specifically on vault, its floor exercise routines, and just build on the momentum they create every week.
It shouldn’t be hard for the Tide to get ready for tonight’s meet against the rivaled Tigers. Alabama currently has a 105-meet winning streak over Auburn.
The last three Alabama-Auburn meets have come down to the final competitor for the Tide and each time, that gymnast has been Ashley Priess. When asked about taking on the role of a clutch, Priess smiled and said she thrives under that kind of pressure.
“I’ve come to love that position quite honestly,” she said. “To have the whole team behind you, it doesn’t feel like it’s just you out there. You have the rest of the team and the coaches and fans backing you up, so really it’s an honor and I always feel really confident that I can do it for the sake of the team.”
Heading into the Auburn meet, Alabama (team average of 196.680) sits behind No. 1 Florida (197.296), No. 2 Oklahoma (197.125), No. 3 Michigan (196.867) and No. 4 UCLA (196.765) in the rankings.
As a team, the Tide ranks fifth in the vault (49.300) and uneven bars (49.180) and seventh on the balance beam (49.005) and floor exercise (49.195).
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