By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn gymnastics coach Jeff Graba says February and March “are going to be pretty unbelievable months for us” if the Tigers will use January to test gymnasts in different lineup positions.
The first pop quiz came Friday, with No. 13 Oregon State beating No. 8 Auburn 195.575-195.275 at Auburn Arena.
“We have a lot of people in new positions. We have a lot of new people,” Graba said. “Our Auburn philosophy is to start a little bit slow. We do it on purpose. For the most part, I was happy with what I’m looking for.”
Graba said he focused on beam, wanting to see how the Tigers would respond if a preceding gymnast stumbled. Taylor Krippner answered that question, scoring a team-high 9.825 after her teammate fell.
“I work better under pressure. I was like, ‘Got to do this for my team,’” Krippner said. “I was elated. I knew I had it in me. Last year was mental warfare within myself. Having a fresh start was phenomenal.”
Graba expects Auburn’s long-term approach to pay off.
“We’re built for February and March. We’re throwing higher risks. If you look at the other teams out there that are scoring well, most of them are going to have to start slow.
“You take a certain chance when you want to throw the big stuff. You have to use January to grow up. The other option is to throw more generic gymnastics, but your scoring potential is at its peak in the third week of January. We believe we have a lot of potential left, but we definitely have a lot of work left.”
Competing in all-around for the first time at Auburn, junior Abby Milliet scored 38.700. Oregon State’s Kaytianna McMillian won all-around with a 39.125.
Several gymnasts made their Auburn debut, including freshman Gracie Day, who competed in everything except beam, winning vault with a 9.850.
“It’s amazing,” Day said. “I just look forward to using this as a building block and improving each week. It was really fun. It wasn’t as stressful as I thought it was going to be.”
Needing a strong floor routine in the final rotation to overcome a .150 deficit, Auburn scored a 48.675, with Oregon State netting 48.825 on beam to secure its victory.
“Obviously, I would have liked to have won, and I would have liked to have gone 198, but that doesn’t really happen too often in early January,” Graba said. “I’m happy we’re all walking away and we’re going to get better next week.”
That’s when No. 9 Georgia comes to Auburn Arena for the SEC opener Friday at 6 p.m. CT.
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) January 7, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer