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Jan 28, 2022; Auburn, AL, USA; XXXXX between Auburn and Alabama at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Shannon/AU Athletics
Jan 28, 2022; Auburn, AL, USA; XXXXX between Auburn and Alabama at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Shannon/AU Athletics

Auburn back on the bars in anticipation of upcoming season

AUBURN, Ala. – Gymnastics is officially back on The Plains for another year.

The Tigers took to the mat to showcase their talent in this year’s preview meet. Despite not being an official meet, Auburn faithful showed up and made their support known. 

"I think we did a pretty good job for really a glorified practice," head coach Jeff Graba said. "It's a building process and we know what the expectations for us are. And I think we're capable of them. I really like where we are right now, and I think we were able to push a little bit and get some stuff done tonight."

Coming off a year that saw the team reach the Final Four, Auburn is facing more expectations than ever. The Tigers did not suffer much turnover but there is still change to be expected, and with that change will come struggles.

“We had some new stuff, but I really liked the fact that some people struggled in the areas that they need to struggle in, because we don’t get any do-overs after this,” Graba said. 

Derrian Gobourne, who is back for her fifth year, showed that she picked up right where she left off last year. The Florida native competed on three of the four rotations, which included the vault, uneven bars, and floor exercise. Gobourne expressed desire to compete in all the events but was stopped short of doing so by Graba. Despite the team being in excellent shape, the coach wanted to keep the team free of injuries early on. 

“Derrian was going to do a full routine and I actually asked her to stop doing everything,” Graba said. “To be in the shape they’re in and ready where they are right now, they are leading this team places.”

Suni Lee continued to show why she is one of the top gymnasts in the world. The sophomore took to the bars and beam throughout the night in what was a clinical performance. The goal is clear what the plan will be for Lee, prepare her for the next Olympics. 

“I was happy at where she is at. She still has some things to add to her routine, these are going to be extreme difficult routines in the NCAA,” Graba said. “In order to prepare her for her goals after this, these are important meets to get pressure with these big routines.”

Olivia Hollingsworth would put together a very impressive performance on the night. Competing in the all-around for the first time since being a freshman, the junior would put a stamp on the night with an eye-catching floor routine. 

"I haven't done the all-around since my freshman year, so I was definitely shaking off the dust," Hollingsworth said. "I was ready, but definitely had some nerves."

The nerves would follow the Tigers throughout the night but that is expected for the first time in front of a crowd since last season. 

“Most of the mistakes we made were pressure, were push, which means they feel the anxiety and they throw away technique a little bit, so they go a little too fast, a little too hard, and you’ve got to go through that,” Graba said.

Auburn will head to Las Vegas to compete in the first ever Super 16 Challenge on January 7. The Tigers will face off against No.1 Oklahoma, No.4 Michigan and No.10 UCLA, with a start time scheduled for 8 p.m. CT. 

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