Monday, December 21, 2009


The Alabama Crimson Tide  has always been counted as one of NCAA gymnastics' greatest teams.  It has won the fourth highest share of NCAA titles, with four under it's belt.  The most recent of these championship titles was in 2002.

Last year, however, it surged to number two spot behind Georgia at Championships after what must have been a dissapointing 6th place in 2008.  Their finish in 9th in 2007 was the lowest they have ever placed.
It seems that very brief dark spell is over again and it remains to see how they will show in this years newly  refurbished final four championships.

Anyway, to celebrate Bama's general greatness, I thought I would look at two of Bama's greatest performers over the decades.

First, we have Penney Hauschild, who surprised everyone, including herself by becoming  one of the Tides greatest ever performers during her time in the mid-eighties.  In fact, she won the NCAA all-around title in 1985 (the year after Megan Marsden did) and tied with Arizonan gymnast Jackie Brummer  for first the next year.  On top of this, she won a swag of honours, like the 1985 bars title, tying for the 1986 floor title and receiving the prestigious Honda award not once, but twice in her career.

Hauschild did not exactly impress in her first year at Bama.  She had been recruited after a strong showing as an elite, where she was ranked about 18th on a National Team that included Mary Lou Retton, Kathy Johnson and Julieanne MacNamara. Hausman had no realistic expectations of making an Olympic team and claimed she didn't really take gymnastics seriously until college.

In fact, it wasn't even until her  second year she made her mark.  After her Freshman year Sarah Patterson told Hauschild's parent that she wasn't taking her sport or academics seriously.  The Hauschild's slution was to put her to work in a factory for the summer, on a production line!  needless to say, Penney came back to training and school with renewed vigour.  She never looked back.

"She's the greatest individual champion we have had in our program" Sarah patterson told the Tuscaloosa News.

(Hauschild honoured as an adult by the Tide)

It seems Hauschild was a gamer.  According to her former team mates, she was never that great in practice, but when it came to competition, bam, she was on.  Val Kondos Smith has said she sees the same in UCLA recruit,  Monique De la Torre.  I wonder how frustrating this is for a coach, to never quite know where they stand with an athlete, except in competition.  It implies that there is alway risk in having them in the line up on a week to week basis.  I guess it would be worth it for a brilliant gymnast, but I wownder if Marta puts up with it with any National Team members.

Next we have Stephanie Wood, Alabama's premiere bars and beam specialist in the mid-nineties was most renowned for her unique and incredible style, particularly on beam.  She came to Alabama after watching two of her team mates back home be recruited by them.  After her first visit to the school, she cancelled her visits to the two other schools she planned trips to and never looked back.

She was hugely flexible, but ever-so-slightly awkward, making for an odd but captivating beam routine.  For those who have never seen it, it is well worth the watch.


 In 1999 she earned a perfect ten on beam.

According to Gymtide news, the move where she pulls her leg backwards toward her head, which is known in the gym as a 'scorpian' the down-to-earth Stephanie just referred to it as the 'the leg thing'!
Flexibility always came easily to Wood, she has claimed, but tumbling did not.  She also had to spend a great many hours working on her toe point.

Swinging bars was her other great talent and she held the NCAA title in 1996 to prove it. She was renowned for rarely missing a routine and always producing the big scores on her specialty when needed. Stephanie went on to study to become a  designer (a la Kupets).

Of course, there have been some other great athletes on the Bama team, Andree Pickens, Jeana Rice, an Olympian favorite Terin Humphrey, Ashley Priess, who made an unexpected leap from elite to collegiate gymnastics before Beijing, and, of course current star, and candidate for homecoming, Morgan Dennis.
But that, I am afraid, is all I have time for as it is time to get on a plane to Tasmania for Christmas.

Happy Holidays!!!



  1. I really love your blog! Thanks for keeping an old gym rat & now gym mom up to date. I did gym at Niagara (Gleasons in NY) ...the same gym Jackie Brummer grew up in. She was awesome. My husband & I both did gym at Temple...he was on the National Team for many years. I am amazed at how difficult the sport is now. Have a happy holiday!!!

  2. Hey Couch Gymnast!

    Just wanted to point out a miniscule error. Bama's last NCAA title was in 2002 not 2004. Your favorite team, UCLA ,won it in 2004.

    Nice Article though :-D

  3. Oh yeah, This is totally off topic but...

    Did you know that Tasha Schwikert's Freshman UCLA floor routine used the same music as current Aussie Gymnast, Lauren Mitchell??? Lol, I thought that was pretty cool. I just found out today went I was watching part 2 of the 2005 NCAA Super Six on youtube :)

    I love that music.

  4. Thanks for your comments guys. I Thanks for picking up my typo Rodney. I was taking it off another site. I am still fairly new to collegiate, so I don't have a lot of it in my head!
    Also, I love Lozza (and Schwikert's) music too. It's very cool. I always wanted to know if one of Mohini Bhardwaj's was similar or the same as the one Hopfner-Hibbs used last year too. They were very similar.

  5. It probably has something to do with Stacy Umeh, who choreographed Lauren's routine, having connections to UCLA through Stella, her sister.

    And 2010 is actually the last year of the super six.

    I'm about to shoot you an e-mail.