By Lauren Smith, College and Magnolia Contributor
The Auburn gymnastics team returned home after a week on the road to host Southern Utah in the annual "Pink Meet" on Friday night. The "Pink Meet" is a yearly event that most gymnastics teams participate in across the country to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. Both teams shed their usual team colors to don pink leotards for the event.
No. 15 Auburn came into this meet off of a second place finish in a tri-meet against Kentucky and Pittsburgh last week. The Tigers posted a solid road score last week of 195.525 but were looking to post a big home score in order to boost their Regional Qualifying Score (RQS).
Scoring reminder: In gymnastics, six gymnasts compete on each event, and the lowest score is dropped. The remaining five scores combine to create the team score on each event. Teams typically aim to score above a 49 on each event -- the higher the score over at 49, the better.
Vault has been Auburn's achilles heel over the past few meets, with the first few scores being on the lower end due to steps on the landing. The steps were minimized Friday, and there was a big improvement in the scores. Allison Sandusky started the Tigers off with a yurchenko layout with a half twist and stuck the landing, scoring a 9.825. Petrina Yokay followed with a score of 9.825, Brittany Webster a score of 9.75, and Kylie Shields a 9.85. Toi Garci and Bri Guy finished out the rotation with identical scores of 9.825. The team scored at 49.125 on vault, which was a season-high in that event.
Moving to bars, Bri Guy seemed to uncharacteristically struggle, almost falling over in one of her handstands. Her sheer power muscled her back into position, but it cost her in her score of 9.775. Abby Habicht scored a 9.825, Megan Walker scored a 9.85, and Petrina Yokay nailed her landing to score a 9.9. Allison Sandusky and Kylie Shields topped the Tigers off with twin scores of 9.925. The 9.9 for Yokay and the 9.925 for Sandusky tied both of their season high scores. The Tigers finished with a very solid team score of 49.425 on bars.
Beam seemed to be the Achilles heel for the Tigers on Friday night. Everyone stayed on the beam, but some big balance checks cost Auburn some tenths in their scores which resulted in a lower than normal team score of 48.875. Yokay started the Tigers off with a solid routine and a score of 9.8. Abby Habicht had a small bobble on her handspring layout flight series, then a big balance check on her tuck jump full which cost her several tenths, resulting in a 9.65. Megan Walker had a very solid flight series of a handspring layout and a stuck landing on her dismount, but a few minor bobbles on her jumps gave her a 9.75. Allison Sandusky fought off a big balance check on her leap/ariel combo and a small hop on her dismount for a score of 9.675. Kylie Shields was rock solid and got the top beam score for the Tigers with a 9.85. Bri Guy finished out the rotation with a 9.8.
Auburn has had a great floor rotation all year, and Friday night was no exception for the Tigers. They are doing a great job of showing off their dance and selling their routines to the crowd, which in turn gets the crowd excited and involved in the routines. Caryn Kadous started things off with a solid score of 9.8, with some great tumbling passes. Laura Lane was up next and scored a 9.775, which was a little lower than what she normally scores. Kylie Shields capped off a great meet with a dynamite routine and a score that tied her career high of 9.85. Brittany Webster had a great routine up until the last pass -- she came up a little short on her double back and had to take a step, which cost her a couple of tenths and led to a score of 9.675. The final two floor performers can always be counted on for a show, and they did not disappoint. Toi Garcia's strong tumbling and fabulous smile brought her a great score of 9.875. Freshman powerhouse Bri Guy came ever closer to the perfect 10. Her tumbling went sky high, and she was a show of sheer power. She earned a career high score of a 9.95 tonight -- perhaps she will get that 10 before this season is over. After it was all said and done, Auburn scored a 49.25 on floor.
Though a new SEC rule says individual winners are no longer to be announced at each meet, it does bear mentioning that Kylie Shields won the all-around with a career-high score of 39.475. Bri Guy came in second with a 39.35. Caitlin Kennedy from Southern Utah was third with a 38.375.
At the end of the evening, Auburn walked away with a decisive win over Southern Utah, outscoring the Thunderbirds 196.7-193.150. This was also Auburn's first home win of the season. Auburn's score of 196.7 was its second-highest score of the season, which will help the Tigers' RQS.
Auburn heads back out on the road next week to take on Southeastern Missouri and will look for another strong showing away from home. So far, the Tigers have done the most important thing that every gymnastics teams looks to do -- keep everyone healthy. Auburn continues to improve each week, and the improvements are noticeable in the Tigers' scores. They are putting in a lot of hard work in the gym each week, and it's paying dividends.