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Rare defeat for UA gymnastics team

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NORMAN, Okla. – The No. 5 Alabama gymnastics team fell to the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners Friday by a score of 197.300-197.150. It marked Alabama's first loss of the season, dropping the Crimson Tide to 9-1-0 overall and 6-0-0 in Southeastern Conference competition. The Sooners improve to 16-2-0 overall and 2-0-0 in the Big XII.

"Oklahoma is the No. 2 in the country and they've been scoring this way for a reason," UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. "I'm certainly all about winning, but sometimes when something like this happens to your team, and they're a little disappointed, I don't think that hurts us in the long run. I think we'll get back in the gym and it will really help us focus on the things that can make us better."

It was Alabama's highest road score of the season and fourth 197-plus score in its last five meets. The Tide was led by senior Geralen Stack-Eaton, who won the all-around with a season-high 39.525. Stack-Eaton and senior Ashley Priess won the vault with matching 9.95s while junior Ashley Sledge won the uneven bars with a 9.925.

The Tide finished off the night with a 48.925 on the balance beam, led by 9.825s from sophomore Kim Jacob and Sledge. Sledge was a last minute substitution after a sore ankle sidelined senior Ashley Priess.

"We had a little bit of a glitch at the end where Ashley Priess' ankle locked up and I had to make a substitution right at the end," Patterson said. "To see Ashley Sledge come in and score 9.825 when she didn't expect to be in the competitive beam lineup, I think that is the kind of things that are going to help us at the end."

Alabama started the meet off on fire, putting together a season-high 49.450 on the uneven bars after all six gymnasts scored 9.85 or better led by Sledge's 9.925, which tied her career-best. Jacob, who made her 2012 debut on the uneven bars, scored a career-best 9.85 while freshman Kaitlyn Clark scored a career-best 9.9. Sophomore

Sarah DeMeo led the Tide off with a 9.85, which tied her season best while Stack-Eaton tied her season best with a 9.9. Stack-Eaton and Priess paced the Tide to a 49.525 on the vault with matching scores of 9.95. It was a career-best mark for Priess, whose previous best was 9.9. The rest of the Tide's lineup came away with matching 9.875s.

Through its first two rotations, Alabama scored nothing less than a 9.85, giving it a .475 lead going into the second half of the meet. Alabama then turned in a solid floor exercise score of 49.25 after junior Marissa Gutierrez and Stack-Eaton closed out the rotation with scores of 9.9.

"We started off strong with our first two events and I thought we did a good job on the floor exercise where we switched things around and got some new people out on there," Patterson said. "We're getting to the end of the season where we have to get some different people some experience."

After back-to-back weeks on the road, Alabama returns home Friday, March 9 when it will face Missouri in the Tide's Tornado Relief Meet starting at 7:30 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum. Tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum or online at RollTide.com.

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