On a Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth, Texas, the Auburn Tigers were making history. They would be competing in the gymnastics national championship meet against three very storied programs in colligate gymnastics. A year of trials and success would all come down to one final meet against three of the top four teams in the nation.
It is only fitting that the greatest season in Auburn gymnastics would end in the final meet of the year against the number 1 seed Oklahoma, 2 seed Florida and 4 seed Utah. Led by Olympic All-Around Gold medalist freshman Sunisa Lee, Auburn has become a household name for gymnastics over night when she took home the gold in Tokyo.
Auburn started the afternoon on bars with Adeline Sabados scoring a 9.825, which was followed by a 9.8875 from freshman Sophia Groth. Cassie Stevens then came in strong with a 9.85 of her own. Aria Brusch then scored a 9.8375, to bring about the two heavy hitters for the Tigers. Derrian Gobourne then scored Auburn’s highest score of the rotation with a huge 9.9375 and just to top it all off, Sunisa Lee finished off the bars for Auburn with a 9.9125.
After rotation one, Auburn was second overall with a 49.425 only behind Utah’s stellar 49.5125 which they scored on beam. Florida was in third with a 49.350 on beam and at the bottom after session one on floor was the number one ranked Oklahoma Sooners with a 49.1875.
For their second rotation, Auburn would be on beam. Olivia Hollingsworth got it started on beam for the Tigers scoring a 9.8375, followed by 9.7875 a from Aria Brusch. Cassie Stevens then 9.8375 followed by Sophia Groth’s 9.800. Gabby McLaughlin scored an 9.825 followed then by the NCAA Beam National Champion Sunisa Lee who scored a 9.9000.
After the second rotation Auburn were sitting in fourth with a 98.6250. Utah remained on the top spot with a 98.9750, followed by the Florida Gators in second with a 98.9750 and Oklahoma in third with a 98.8500 after their best score of the season on the vault.
For the third rotation, Auburn moved to floor to try and gain back some momentum and close the gap that was between them and Utah.
Aria Brusch got it started for Auburn on floor with a 9.8000 followed by super senior Drew Watson with a 9.8125. Next, Cassie Stevens scored a 9.825 and after her, Sophia Groth 9.8625. After her, Sunisa Lee scored a huge 9.95 that helped the Tigers gain some more ground to the leaders. To wrap it all up for the Tigers, the floor queen, Derrian Gobourne scored a 9.9375.
Going into the final rotation, Auburn remained in fourth with a score of 148.0125. Oklahoma, after they were in fourth after rotation one, was now in first with a score of 148.575, followed by the Florida Gators with a 148.375 and Utah in third with a 148.200.
Auburn’s final rotation of the season would be on the vault. Starting it off on the vault, Sophia Groth scored a 9.7875 followed by a 9.8625 from Sara Hubbard. Cassie Stevens was up next and scored a 9.9375 for the Tigers and was followed by a 9.8875 from Derrian Gobourne. In her last ever event for the Tigers, senior Drew Watson scored a 9.775. Finally, in her last event of a record-breaking freshman season for the Auburn Tigers, Sunisa Lee scored 9.8625 on the beam, securing her second place in the all-around for the day.
After rotation four, Oklahoma, who had finished rotation one in last place would take home the championship to Norman, Oklahoma with a 198.2000. Coming in second were the Florida Gators with a 198.0875. In third were the Utah Utes with a 19.7500 and Auburn would finish the meet in fourth with a 197.3500.
Even though the result may have not been what the Tigers were looking for, very few people imagined this team competing in the final meet of the season in Fort Worth when the season started.
“We are that team. People are gonna be talking about that team.” said senior Drew Watson when asked about what its been like to see the team grow this season and over her career.
When asked about how the team will build off the success of this years team, freshman Sophia Groth said, “oh we are going to build off this year…I was looking at our trophy that we got tonight and said “next year that’s gonna say one.””
“Just really proud of the team. We are in an area that we have not been before…we proved some people wrong. I’m just really happy with our performance.” said Jeff Graba in his opening remarks to the press conference after the meet.
Only time will tell how the Auburn gymnastics team will follow up their best performance in program history, but do not be surprised if this team is back in Fort Worth next year, looking to capture that national title.