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Ashley Priess-Johnston Named Head Coach at Alabama 

Ashley Priess-Johnston has been named the head coach of The University of Alabama gymnastics program, UA Director of Athletics Greg Byrne announced Monday. Johnston will be formally introduced at a press conference on Friday.

“We are beyond excited to have Ashley Johnston take over the reins of our gymnastics program as our head coach,” Byrne said. “Everyone we’ve spoken to holds her in the highest regards as a coach, mentor and leader, including long-time head coach Sarah Patterson, who I’ve had wonderful conversations with during this search and I really appreciate her support. Throughout this process with Ashley, we’ve been very impressed with her commitment to the total student-athlete. One of the grittiest and most accomplished competitors in our program’s proud history, she has translated her achievements as a gymnast into a standout career as a coach, and we are thrilled to have her back in Tuscaloosa.”

A 10-time Crimson Tide All-American and member of back-to-back NCAA Championship teams, Johnston was legendary for coming up with huge routines when the stakes were the highest, securing her place in Crimson Tide lore when she closed out the 2012 NCAA Championships with a near-perfect balance beam routine to clinch Alabama’s sixth national team title.

“I am honored to be trusted as your new head gymnastics coach,” said Johnston. “Thank you to Greg Byrne and the amazing executive team for allowing me to share my vision, passion and commitment to student-athlete well-being and to the future of this storied program. I look forward to reconnecting with each and every one of you. With a very full heart, I want to say, ‘Thank you,’ and ‘Roll Tide!'”

Johnston takes over Alabama’s gymnastics program following four years at Auburn, where she finished her tenure as associate head coach. She helped lead the Tigers to a fourth-place national finish last season, their highest in program history. The 2019 WGCA Central Region Assistant coach of the Year in her first season with Auburn, Johnston started her collegiate coaching career as an assistant at Illinois during the 2018 season.

Johnston began her coaching career at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, where she worked with CGA head coach Mary Lee Tracy at the Elite and developmental level, while coaching the floor exercise and balance beam optional program.

Alabama’s seventh head gymnastics coach since 1974, Johnston is just the third since 1979. The Crimson Tide has won six NCAA Championships (1988, 1991, 1996, 2002, 2011, 2012), 10 SEC Championships and an NCAA-best 32 regional titles.

Dana Duckworth Steps Down as Head Coach at Bama 

After eight seasons at the helm, the Alabama gymnastics program has announced head coach Dana Duckworth is resigning. Duckworth said the decision is a result of wanting to spend more time with her family. 

“This decision was not an easy one as I am forever grateful to our student-athletes, their families, my staff and fellow coaches. The University of Alabama is a special place and I care deeply about the gymnastics program, but after 27 years of involvement, I have decided to step down and focus on my family for now. I have all the confidence in the world in this team and wish nothing but great things for their future.” -Dana Duckworth 

Prior to becoming head coach, Duckworth served in several assistant coaching roles at Bama and was a student athlete herself, winning the NCAA beam title twice in her career. As head coach, Duckworth has led the Crimson Tide to three SEC team titles (most recently in 2021) and eight NCAA Championship appearances. 

Assistant coach Gina Quinlan will serve as interim head coach, with the search for a new head coach beginning immediately.

Photos by Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics and University of Alabama

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