FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High senior Lilly Hudson has waited nearly six years to do what she did Friday morning at Fleming Island High School. And what she did was postponed two days more for …
FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High senior Lilly Hudson has waited nearly six years to do what she did Friday morning at Fleming Island High School. And what she did was postponed two days more for a hurricane that never showed.
“It’s been since eighth grade that I got the offer from Alabama and now, here we are five years later about to make it happen,” said Hudson, a state all around gymnastics champion in 2018 and a Junior International Elite competitor. “Alabama was the last school I talked to back then with Georgia, Oklahoma and Florida all giving me visits before I visited Alabama. I loved the campus and that made my decision.”
For University of Alabama coach Dana Duckworth, a member of the Alabama 1991 NCAA championship team, Hudson’s evolution in the sports since their offer five years ago has impressed her as to Hudson’s value to the program.
“Lilly is a beautiful gymnast with impeccable lines on all four events. Her elite experience, discipline and resilience along with an internal fortitude for constant improvement in every aspect of her life will make for an awesome collegiate transition,” said Duckworth, in a statement on RollTide.com news. “We have built a relationship with Lilly since she was in the eighth grade and I have witnessed her evolve into a leader with confidence who owns her voice and puts family first. It has been several years since her commitment and we are excited the time has come to celebrate her arrival.” Duckworth’s resume as an Alabama coach; five years as present head coach, six as an assistant coach and nine as a volunteer coah, includes three NCAA titles, five SEC championships and 17 region titles as well as 15 individual NCAA championships and 204 All-America athletes. Duckworth, ironically, was twice NCAA balance beam champion (1992, 1993).
Hudson has spent the last five years honing her gymnastics while also perservering through, as she says, “just about every injury that a gymnast can have.”
“They were all gymnastics-related injuries,” said Hudson, who plans on attacking the all around aspect of gymnasts at Alabama with the balance beam, also state champion, one of her favorites of the four disciplines; beam, vault, floor and uneven parallel bars. “Focus on the goal of getting to Alabama and also my love of the sport helped me to overcome all of the injuries. I want to concentrate on the all around part of the gymnastics with the balance beam my best event.” Ironically, Hudson’ decision to go to Alabama has indirectly affected her hopes of an Olympic team bid.
“Since I chose to go the university route, I don’t plan on taking the Olympic route,” said Hudson. “It was in the path, but the injuries were part of my decision. I wanted to focus on the college team.”
Hudson’s biggest influences on her last five years have been parents Stan and Marcy Hudson as well as her coach at Florida Elite Gymnastics in Ponte Vedra; Valentin Buse. Also part of the Hudson team is dance coach Mila Picus.
“He’s been my main mentor; coach Vali, he has taught me so many life lessons,” said Hudson, who competed in prestigious events such as the 2016 P & G U.S. National Gymnastics Championships held in Missouri, the 2016 U.S. Secret Classic as well as the Florida Level 10 State championships. “My mom and dad and my whole family have been way supportive through everything to get to today.”
Hudson cited her biggest moment was the 2016 P & G Championships where she saw the likes of Olympians Simone Biles and Aly Raisman. Hudson finished 19th overall with a two round score of 105.250 (52.7, 52.550) with the overall junior champion scoring a 115.050 (57.05, 58.00).
“My peak from there has made me believe that I was capable of national level gymnastics,” said Hudson. “That meet let me see what I want and what I am capable of. Everything went up from there.”
As for Alabama, where football rules the campus, Hudson was well aware of the Southeastern Conference rivalries Alabama gymnastics has with the likes of Georgia and Florida. The Alabama gymnastics average fans per meet last year was nearly 12,000 fans per meet with a school and SEC record of 15,162 fans for a 2006 meet.
“I heard they have a pretty good football team at Alabama,” said Hudson. “I understand the intense rivalries that Alabama competes against. The Alabama vs. Georgia rivalry in gymnastics is about as big as Alabama v. Auburn football, I think. Georgia was my first visit with Alabama my last one.”