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Jan 28, 2022; Auburn, AL, USA; Sophia Groth and Tara Walsh hug after Sophia Groth’s floor routine during the meet between Auburn and Alabama at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Shannon/AU Athletics
Jan 28, 2022; Auburn, AL, USA; Sophia Groth and Tara Walsh hug after Sophia Groth’s floor routine during the meet between Auburn and Alabama at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Shannon/AU Athletics

Auburn advances to National Championship behind third highest score in program history

In a season full of historic moments, Auburn has made history again. The Tigers are heading to the Final Four for the first time ever, after placing second in the final semifinal behind the Florida Gators. Florida led the pack with a score of 197.9750 while Auburn was right behind at 197.8375.

Missouri finished in third place with a score of 197.2000 while the defending national champion Michigan Wolverines struggled throughout the semifinal, falling four times and finishing in fourth with a score of 196.2875

This year has been like no other for Auburn gymnastics. Of the 10 all-time high scores in the history of the program, nine of them have come from this season. Today’s score was the fourth highest in the history of Auburn gymnastics and came when the pressure was on. 

Auburn started the rotation on beam, an event that has been one of its strengths in recent weeks, with Suni Lee scoring multiple 10s in the event this season. 

Olivia Hollingsworth started the rotation, scoring 9.8375 in her only event of the evening. Aria Brusch, who struggled with injuries during the season, has been consistent for the Tigers on beam since her return. She scored 9.85 and was followed by a 9.8375 from Cassie Stevens.  

Auburn rounded out the first rotation with a trio of 9.9s, the first coming from freshman sensation Sophia Groth with a 9.925. After a 9.9 from Gabby McLaughlin, Suni Lee was up next. 

The Olympic Gold Medalist did not disappoint, scoring 9.9625 on the beam. This score also secured the individual beam national championship for Lee, who has had an outstanding season, earning SEC Freshman of the Year and setting the record for most 10s by a gymnast in Auburn history. 

The Tigers headed to the floor  in second place with a score of 49.475. Trailing only Michigan, Auburn looked to reclaim the lead in one of their strongest events. The team started the event slow, with a 9.8625 from Aria Brusch and veteran Drew Watson earning a 9.65, but consecutive 9.9s from Cassie Stevens and Sophia Groth kept the Tigers in it. Suni Lee was excellent on the floor once again, scoring 9.95 for her routine, and Derrian Gobourne led the way for the Tigers, finishing the rotation with a score of 9.9625.

Auburn headed to the vault with a score of 99.0500 and a lead over the rest of the field, including Michigan in second with 98.9125. The mission was simple, hold the lead the Tigers would make it to the Final Four. 

Sophia Groth got things started and stuck the landing for a 9.8. Freshman Sara Hubbard stepped up in her lone event of the evening with a huge 9.9. Cassie Stevens followed that with a 9.7875 and Derrian Gobourne, a former National Champion on vault, scored 9.875 to put the team back on track. Senior and leader of the team Drew Watson bounced back after her floor routine and scored the highest for the team with a 9.925. Suni Lee anchored the rotation, scoring 9.85 on her vault. 

Auburn went to the final rotation with the lead still intact, but Florida was on their heels with a score of 148.2250. The Gators had taken second place from Michigan after the Wolverines had two gymnasts earn low scores on the uneven bars. 

Adeline Sabados opened the event, scoring 9.8 on the bars and Sophia Groth followed that with a score of 9.8375. Junior Cassie Stevens closed out her all-around night with a 9.85 on bars. Aria Brusch had her best performance of the night, scoring 9.8875 and Derrian Gobourne scored her second 9.95 of the evening. Suni Lee closed out the rotation, scoring 9.9125 on the bars and capping off a second place finish for the Tigers. 

Florida caught up to the Tigers behind a brilliant floor rotation, including a perfect 10 from Trinity Thomas, who took home the individual national titles for floor as well as all-around with a score of 39.8125. Suni Lee finished second in the all-around with a score of 39.6750.

“Coming into this year, we don't have experience and now we have experience,” said Auburn head coach Jeff Graba. “We thought we were capable of this at the beginning of the year.”

Auburn will now compete for the national championship on Saturday in Fort Worth, facing No. 2 Florida once again, as well as No.1 Oklahoma and No. 4 Utah. The Tigers will be looking to win their first national championship in program history. 

The championship meet is set to begin at 12 p.m. CST with coverage on ABC.

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