Auburn Gymnastics has a plethora of SEC meets under their belt. In the past few weeks, Auburn has competed against Alabama, LSU, and Mizzou. At every single meet, the team posted a score of 197+, which is the first time Auburn has ever posted three scores above a 197 consecutively.
The magic started when Auburn hosted Alabama. It’s old news that Auburn ended the incredibly long losing streak, and started a small, but marvelous, winning streak. "One in a row" has never felt so good! The most impressive aspect of that meet was the maturity that the team had displayed. There was concern at the beginning of the season that this young team may not know how to handle the energy that comes with a great crowd. The gymnasts debunked that theory by showing off their landings, boasting beautiful smiles, fighting till the end, and most importantly, enjoying the moment.
The following week, after the huge high of defeating Alabama, the team had to travel to LSU to compete against one of the most impressive teams in the country. LSU has a ton of talent and they are hungry! Last year at the prelims of the NCAA Championships, LSU, to be blunt, choked. They had three falls on beam and they needed five perfect 10.0s on floor in order to catch Auburn. So, when Auburn showed up in the PMAC, you can bet that those other Tigers felt like they had something to prove. They won the meet, supported by a perfect 10.0 on floor from one of their most prominent athletes, Ashleigh "Bugs" Gnat.
However, I was actually more impressed with Auburn (aren’t you shocked?). The student section at Auburn is taunting, but fun-loving. They appreciate good gymnastics, regardless of the team. The student section at LSU isn’t as forgiving. I specifically remember when we competed there my junior year, one of the students, sitting directly in front of the beam, yelled, "FALL!" while I was doing my routine. At Auburn, everyone is quiet during a beam routine and the music we play is calming and matches the rhythm of the event. LSU doesn’t tend to follow those rules, so it can be hard to focus. Our girls did a great job on all four events, but particularly knocked it out of the park on beam, which is the last event when you’re the away team. Freshman Sam Cerio had her best showing of the year. Not a wobble and a stuck dismount helped everyone settle down and show off their best gymnastics. Auburn didn’t win the meet, but remember, winning doesn’t matter yet. It was a job well done.
Last week, Auburn hosted Mizzou. Mizzou has had a difficult time adjusting to the competition that exists in the SEC, but they’re finally finding their way. With a score of 197.2, Auburn kept its 197-streak alive, and once again, proved that they have earned their No. 8 RQS ranking. Senior Caitlin Atkinson rocked the house with a 39.625 All-Around score, along with a 9.95 on Floor. Auburn earned a 49.5 on Floor, meaning they only gave away half a point in deductions overall on that event! That’s quite a score. They won the meet 197.2-196.625 and concluded a string of three SEC meets on a high note.
I’m sure you noticed the term "RQS" earlier in this post. In gymnastics, once all teams have competed six meets or more, the rankings stop being determined by overall average and begin to be ranked by the Regional Qualifying Score. The Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) determines where the team will be sent for the Regional Championship. It’s calculated by taking a team’s six highest scores of the year and doing a bit of math. Of those six scores, a minimum of three must be from away meets (because "home-scoring does exist). The other three can be home scores or away scores. The highest score of the six is then thrown out, and the remaining five are averaged together. It’s a bit confusing, but it gives a more accurate picture of what team has been consistently performing the best.
Before the rankings were determined by RQS, your Auburn Tigers were ranked 8th. Post-RQS rankings, they’re still ranked 8th. That means this team has been dynamic and consistent all the way through, which is encouraging. But, these girls don’t get a break anytime soon. This coming weekend, the team will travel to Athens to compete against No. 10 Georgia. Currently, there are six(!) teams in the SEC ranked in the top 10. Florida (No. 2), Bama (No. 3), LSU (No. 4), Auburn (No. 8), Arkansas (No. 9), and Georgia (No. 10). This meet is a big deal because:
1) It’s hard to compete at Georgia, but oh-so-fun. You can feel hatred radiating from the crowd and that can fire you up just as much as your home crowd. In addition to that, Georgia is the place teams go to lose (not on purpose, of course). But for some unknown reason, Georgia, who isn’t known for having the best floor line-up, always gets thrown huge scores on that event. Earlier this year, the No. 1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners traveled to Athens and they nearly lost. Oklahoma’s best scores on floor matched some of the lowest scores for Georgia, even though their routines were of high quality.
2) This is the last SEC match up for Auburn before SEC Championships in a couple of weeks. Next week, the team will host Arizona St. for Senior Night. ASU is a good team, but not SEC good.
3) The rankings are too close for comfort. Your Auburn Tigers have done a phenomenal job so far this year, but obviously, so have other teams. In gymnastics, every team participates in the SEC Championship and it’s obviously not tournament style because, well, that would suck the life out of the gymnasts. Instead, the schools are split into two sessions. The teams with the top four rankings in the RQS earn a spot in the night session. The other four are pushed into the dreaded day-time session. Not only is the time of day off, but if you fall in the 5-8 slots, you might as well consider yourself out before the meet even starts. You can still get a decent away score, but you have literally zero chance at winning the SEC title.
The judges view the two groups differently and there tends to be a HUGE difference in scores. For example, two years ago when Auburn was in the day-time session, there were only three scores of a 9.9 or higher during that entire session. In the night session, the teams rarely were given a score below a 9.9. I can assure you that there wasn’t that big of a gap between No. 4 and No. 5! The team is fighting against UGA for a spot in the night session and if they earn it, they will truly be fighting for an SEC title for only the second time in decades.
The meet against Georgia starts at 6pm CST and will be broadcasted on SEC+ Network. Tune in to watch these girls during their last road meet of the regular season. Expect a tight meet, but lots of energy. Keep the Auburn Gymnastics team in your plans for next week as well. If there’s any senior class that deserves lots of love and support on their Senior Night, it’s this one! War Eagle.