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Auburn gymnastics on learning curve at Elevate the Stage
Jan. 17, 2016

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Kelsey Kopec and Auburn had its moments at Elevate the Stage on Sunday
Kelsey Kopec and Auburn had its moments at Elevate the Stage on Sunday





By Charles Goldberg

AuburnTigers.com

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ― Somewhere down the road, Jeff Graba figures, Sunday's Elevate the Stage meet will help his Auburn gymnastics team.

Sunday, though, competing on an NCAA Championship-like podium for the first time this year had its ups and downs. Alabama defeated Auburn 196.875 to 196.075 at Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in what Graba figures will be a learning experience for his team.

"We have a number of girls who have never even been on a podium before," Graba said. "Nine or 10 of our girls ― basically half our lineup ― have never competed in college gymnastics before. I think they handled this atmosphere pretty well, and I think we also handled the podium pretty well. I do think it will prepare us in the end really nicely. But you have to go through growing pains with a young team."

Auburn's Caitlin Atkinson and Alabama's Mackenzie Brannan shared all-around honors with identical 39.325.

The Tigers and Tide have been through this routine before, from the 100-plus times they've participated in the same meet, to each making to the NCAA's Super Six last season. Alabama finished fourth there. Auburn had its best-ever finish in sixth.

They'll meet again Feb. 12 when Alabama visits Auburn Arena, and then again in the SEC Championships in March and perhaps another rematch in the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth.

Sunday was the third meet in the last eight days for both teams.

"Guess what? If you go to Super Six you're going to be tired. We need to learn from this," Graba said.

Auburn was right there after the first two rotations. The Tigers scored well enough on vault and bars to trail Alabama 98.400 to 98.350.

"I felt we started strong. We made two events at a pretty good clip, then we tightened up a little bit. The youth showed on beam," Graba said.

The Tigers stumbled on beam as the electronic scoring system failed tell the gymnasts what they scored.

"Beam was chaotic," Graba said. "You don't know your scores, nothing's popping up, you can't see anything, so we're kind of in a dark area. The girls who look at their scores and get excited or frustrated, they're not capable of judging themselves."

Still, "I thought we settled down a little bit after that."

Graba said Auburn regrouped on floor after what Graba described as "seven days of heavy travel."

"We went to floor with a pretty good attitude," he said. "I know I was worried about floor, third meet in a week, and it was our final event. I was worried that we wouldn't have the gas, but I thought we did a good job. In the end, even though I'm not happy with the meet, I thought the girls fought all the way through."

Auburn's Lexus Demers and Mackenzie Brannan tied for first in vault. Atkinson tied Alabama's Keely McNeer and Kiana Winston for first in bars. Alabama's Angelina Giancroce and Katie Bailey won floor.

Auburn returns to action Friday against defending national champion Florida at 7:30 p.m. in Auburn Arena.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter:
 

 

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