March 25, 2006
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Auburn made history on Saturday as the Tigers claimed two of the four individual Southeastern Conference awards as they posted a 194.975 to finish fifth at the SEC Championships in front of 7,607 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex on Saturday.
In this the 26th season of SEC gymnastics, just one Auburn gymnast had ever been tabbed as SEC Gymnast of the Year or SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year - that was until Saturday. After 24 first-place finishes, including seven all-around titles during the regular season, sophomore Julie Dwyer followed up her 2005 SEC Freshman of the Year honor with the SEC Gymnast of the Year honor. Former Auburn gymnast Sarah Wentworth also received the honor in 2000. Joining Dwyer in the post-meet awards ceremony was junior Nicole Barnett, who became the first Auburn gymnast to be chosen as SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year.
"I am speechless," Julie Dwyer said. "It is just an amazing feeling. The award was totally unexpected and it is such a great honor."
"It is awesome," head coach Jeff Thompson said of Dwyer's honor. "It is very well deserved. No all-arounder does more for their team than Dwyer does for us. It is a tremendous honor in an elite league. Not many gymnasts win SEC Freshman of the Year one year followed by SEC Gymnast of the Year."
Barnett, who holds a 4.0 GPA and is in the honors program for Biomedical Sciences, has competed in every meet this season for the Tigers and ranks second on the team in average floor score.
"Nicole is an amazing person to be able to balance what she does between having a 4.0 in academics and balancing athletics," Thompson said. "She is in her sixth semester in the Biomedical Sciences honors program and is a solid contributor to us in the gym. I am excited she was chosen as SEC Scholar Athlete. It is a great honor for her and it is very well deserved."
In the first-ever SEC Championship held on a podium, Auburn's score of 194.975 was its fourth-highest in school history at the championships, as the Tigers placed fifth for the fourth time in the last five years.
"We are proud of our young team for competing well in a very raucous environment," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "We still have room for improvement which is encouraging going in to NCAA Regionals in two weeks. I think they will gain a lot of confidence from hitting here at the SEC Championships."
With Auburn (10-14, 1-5 SEC) finishing on floor after the sixth rotation, Arkansas needed a 49.075 on vault in the seventh rotation to match the Tigers' score. However, the Gym'Backs vaulted a 48.750, which was not enough to overtake the Tigers, who held off Arkansas by .325 (194.975-194.650). The Tigers also defeated Kentucky, who posted a 191.150.
Individually, Dwyer recorded her second straight all-around score of 39.225 to pace the Tigers. En route to tallying a 39.225, Dwyer tied for fifth on beam with a 9.850. Dwyer also tied her career high on floor with a 9.900 to tie for sixth in the event. It was the fourth time in her career she has scored a 9.900.
Georgia won its 15th SEC Championship and third in a row with a 197.275. Alabama finished second with a 196.975, as the Crimson Tide defeated third-place Florida (196.275) by seven-tenths. LSU placed fourth with a 195.900.
In the first of seven rotations, Auburn opened on vault, scoring a 48.600. Vaulting fifth, Lindsey Puckett recorded a 9.775 to lead the Tigers. Anchoring the Tigers' lineup, Julie Dwyer scored a 9.750. Kayla Gies notched a 9.750 in the No. 4 spot in the Tigers' lineup. Opening on the event for the first time this season, Karmen Pinckney registered a 9.675. Claire Seiffert vaulted a 9.650 for the second meet in a row. Following Seiffert in the lineup, Danielle Holtz also scored a 9.650.
After all the teams had completed its first event, Auburn's score of 48.600 on vault was ahead of Arkansas' score of 47.925 and Kentucky's floor score of 47.975. Georgia's score of 49.325 on bars was tops in the seven-team field. Florida was second with a floor score of 49.275. Alabama scored a 48.975 on vault, while LSU posted a 48.875 on beam. Auburn had a bye in the second rotation.
After a bye in the second rotation, Auburn matched its vault score with 48.600 on bars in the third rotation. Leading the way for the Tigers was Julie Dwyer, who scored a 9.775. In the fourth spot in the Tigers' lineup, Puckett recorded a 9.750. A.J. Mills opened the event for the Tigers, securing a 9.700. Pinckney matched Mills' score with a 9.700 in the third spot in the Tigers' lineup. Aimee Goheen locked down a score of 9.675 in the second spot in the Tigers' lineup.
Following the third rotation, Auburn's score of 97.200 after two events ranked ahead of Arkansas (96.825) and Kentucky (95.625). Georgia's score of 98.525 paced the field.
In the fourth rotation on beam, the Tigers scored a 48.725, led by Dwyer's 9.850. Mills secured a 9.800 in the fourth position in Auburn's lineup. Second in Auburn's lineup, Kayla Gies scored a 9.700 for the second meet in a row. Alicia Lenkiewicz matched Gies' score with a 9.700. Performing first on beam for Auburn was Shanna Somero, who scored a 9.675.
At the conclusion of the fourth rotation, Auburn had a score of 145.925. With the Tigers through with three events, they remained ahead of Arkansas (145.900) and Kentucky (134.7000). Georgia remained in first with a 148.125.
In the final event of the evening for the Tigers in the sixth rotation, Auburn posted a floor score of 49.050. Dwyer matched her career high with a 9.900 to pace the Tigers. Puckett posted her highest score in three meets with a 9.850. Karmen Pinckney scored a 9.775 for the Tigers in the third spot in the lineup. Nicole Barnett matched Pinckney's score with a 9.775. Opening on floor for Auburn, Holtz tallied a 9.750. Performing second on floor for the Tigers, Seiffert notched a 9.625.
The SEC Championships will air on March 30 at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports South.
Next up for Auburn is a trip to NCAA Regionals on April 8. Auburn's regional site location and start time will be announced on Monday by the NCAA.