Alabama gymnastics senior Ashley Priess will return for a fifth year of competition, the team announced on Tuesday. Priess did not compete during the 2011 season, sitting out after surgery on both of her ankles, meaning she has an extra year of eligibility that she elected to use.
“I feel like Ashley deserved another senior year because she’s worked so hard to get back to this point,” head coach Sarah Patterson said.
Priess initially said she would not return for a fifth year, even though the option was always open for her. But as the year progressed, her ankles healed faster than she initially expected.
“I just think this is a sport where anything can happen and it’s really hard to plan ahead because this sport is just so unpredictable,” Priess said. “I’ve gotten healthier and healthier to the point where I’m probably healthier than I was when I was 16 years old.”
Priess was the hero of the NCAA Championship on Saturday, scoring a 9.95 on her last event to clinch the Tide’s sixth national championship. After such a memorable ending to her senior season, she talked to Patterson and her teammates, ultimately deciding that she did not want her Alabama gymnastics career to be over.
The No. 4-seed Alabama gymnastics team won its sixth national championship on Saturday and its second in two years — all under head coach Sarah Patterson. The Tide turned in a 197.85 that beat the No. 1 Florida Gators’ score by just .075.
“It was just a great moment for everybody, to know that we put everything out on the floor and that we had no regrets,” senior Geralen Stack-Eaton said. “It’s just an amazing feeling to know that we’ve won another national championship.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of our athletes,” Patterson said. “We really had a great night.”