The Auburn gymnastics team failed to secure a share of the SEC title as they lost to rival Alabama last Friday. The narrow 196.400 to 196.700 defeat puts the Tigers at 7-2 on the season and 13th in the nation with an average Regional Qualifying Score of 196.540.
The Tigers will get a chance to avenge last week’s loss as they will face off against the Crimson Tide once again on Saturday in Birmingham as a part of the Elevate the Stage event.
The podium-style event will not affect the Tigers’ conference record but will affect their regional qualifying score and as a result, their seeding in the NCAA tournament.
Before Auburn dives into the SEC tournament, the event will give them a chance to prepare and get a taste of a postseason atmosphere.
“I think the podium provides a really cool opportunity for us because not a lot of teams in the country get to do that before they go to SEC’s and so it gives us kind of an advantage and it’s that postseason feel and you’ll get to feel like you’re competing at a higher level meet,” said sophomore gymnast Allie Riddle.
2019 has been one of the most successful seasons in the history of the program —something Auburn head coach Jeff Graba is fully aware of. And while he believes his squad hasn’t exactly played up to their full potential lately, he does believe the team is almost at the level it needs to be.
“We’re there in practice. We’re a really good practice team and for whatever reason, we’ve been tightening up. I think success got under their skin a little bit, maybe got in their head a little bit, and they started to look ahead rather than just stay focused on what they were good at,” Graba said. “They’ve been really motivated, and they’ve been really driven — I think almost to a fault. … They need to back off the throttle every once in a while and just believe in themselves. And I think that’s what I’m seeing this week — a little more focus, a little more trust in each other.”
After the Alabama meet, the Tigers will have one more matchup on March 15 against the Air Force Academy before heading off to the SEC Championship in New Orleans the following week.
And despite last week’s loss, Graba and the Auburn gymnasts are determined to not let the loss affect them while also feeling confident in their ability to compete with the best teams in the country,
“Sometimes I think that disappointment is the best catalyst to make the team go to bigger heights and know that we’re fearless and trust our gymnastics. And yes, it maybe wasn’t the best outcome that we were hoping for, but I think it taught us a lot. I think that Auburn gymnastics is just going to have a fire under them going forward and especially this weekend,” Riddle said. “I think the best is yet to come and I think we saw this weekend that we’re capable of more than we think we are sometimes.”
The Tigers will meet the Tide at 7 p.m. Saturday. The matchup will not be televised.