Recruiting Breakdown: Key, Dickson Highlight Crimson Tide's Incoming Class

Christy Ann Linder Bailie Key floor pose

​The 2018 NCAA gymnastics season is still months away, but it's never too early to get to know the incoming freshman class for each team. Here's a breakdown of the new additions Alabama has made for next year. 

Alabama finished sixth at the 2017 NCAA Championships after struggling on both uneven bars and balance beam. That performance was in stark contrast to the team's semifinal session, in which the Crimson Tide had the fourth-best score. Alabama coach Dana Duckworth's squad will look for a bit more consistency in 2018.

​Outgoing: ​Katie Bailey, Amanda Jetter, Keely McNeer, Mary Lillian Sanders, Aja Sims, Mackenzie Valentin

The Crimson Tide lose a solid group of seniors after the 2018 season. Duckworth will need to find a new leadoff competitor on three events--uneven bars, balance beam, and vault--to replace Keely McNeer's steadiness in that role. Katie Bailey brought in consistent scores on both vault and uneven bars. Amanda Jetter was a solid contributor on bars and competed on floor for about half of the 2017 season. Aja Sims could be counted on to bring in a great number on both beam and floor exercise. Both Mackenzie Valentin and Mary Lillian Sanders added depth on floor and beam, respectively.

​Incoming: ​Bailie Key, Kylie Dickson, Alonza Klopfer, Lexi Graber, Peyton Ernst (transfer) 

Bailie Key

Montgomery, Texas
Trains at Texas Dreams Gymnastics
Coached by Kim Zmeskal-Burdette and Chris Burdette, who also coached current Crimson Tide gymnasts Kiana Winston and Ari Guerra

Key was the 2013 junior national champion in the all-around and on both balance beam and floor exercise. She made her international debut in 2012 at the City of Jesolo Trophy meet and finished third in the all-around. Key won the all-around at the competition in both 2013 and 2014 as a junior and finished second in the all-around at her senior international debut. She missed the 2014 national championships with an injury but returned in 2015 and finished fourth in the all-around at her first senior nationals. Key appeared to be in the running for last year's Olympic team until a back injury forced her to withdraw from the national championships and end her Olympic bid.

​Video courtesy of USA Gymnastics 

​Impact event: All-around

Kylie Dickson

Spanish Fort, Alabama 
Trains at All Olympia Gymnastics Center
Coached by Artur Akopyan and Galina Marinova

Dickson represented Belarus at both the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio last summer. She finished 22nd in the all-around at the 2016 European Championships, which she attended as a member of the Belarusian team. Dickson competed as a Level 10 during 2017. She tied for first in the all-around at the Southern California state championships. She finished first on vault, second on floor, third on bars, and fourth on balance beam. She was third at the Region 1 championships, where she earned titles on both vault and floor. She tied for second on bars at the 2017 JO National Championships. Dickson competed at the Secret U.S. Classic in 2015 and earned an 11th-place finish in the all-around, including ninth on vault.

​Video courtesy of FIG Channel 

​Impact event
: Vault

Alonza Klopfer

Boonton, New Jersey
Trains at North Stars Gymnastics Academy
Coached by Tony Gehman and Ann Meade

Klopfer finished fourth in the all-around at the 2017 JO National Championships, including a tie for fifth place on balance beam. She was ninth in the all-around at the 2016 JO National Championships and was the JO national champion on balance beam. She earned silver in the all-around at the 2016 Region 7 championships while also taking the titles on uneven bars and balance beam. Klopfer competed as a junior international elite at the 2013 Secret U.S. Classic. She grabbed silver on balance beam at the 2013 National Elite Qualifier.

​Video courtesy of USA Gymnastics

​Impact event: Balance beam

Lexi Graber

Ft. Myers, Florida
Trains at Coast Elite Gymnastics Academy
Coached by David Zweifelhofer

Graber finished fourth at the 2017 JO National Championships and scored a perfect 10 to win the vault. She was also sixth on balance beam. She was the Region 8 all-around champion and snagged regional titles on both balance beam and floor exercise. Graber was also the 2016 JO national vault champion. She finished second in the all-around at both the 2012 and 2014 JO National Championships. Graber competed at the 2015 Nastia Liukin Cup, where she finished fourth in the all-around.

​Video courtesy of USA Gymnastics

​Impact event: Vault

Peyton Ernst

Coppell, Texas
Trained at Texas Dreams Gymnastics
Coached by Kim Zmeskal-Burdette and Chris Burdette

Ernst transferred to Alabama in January after competing her freshman season at Florida. She redshirted the 2017 season due to NCAA transfer rules. She is coming off her third shoulder surgery, and it will be interesting to see if she competes multiple events for the Crimson Tide. She competed only on beam during the 2016 season for the Gators and scored at least a 9.800 eight times. Ernst was a two-time member of the U.S national team for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. She had a breakout meet at the 2013 Secret U.S. Classic, where she finished second in the all-around and on floor exercise and first on balance beam. Ernst's injury history makes her a big question mark for the Crimson Tide, though her beam is lovely and brings in a consistent score.

​Impact event: Balance beam

Editor's note: A previous version of this article included Kaitlynn Scott who will no longer be attending Alabama.

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Robert Killips-USA TODAY Sports Nassar

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