By Jeff Shearer
AuburnTigers.com Senior Writer
Auburn's gymnasts would like nothing better than to welcome their former assistant coach back to campus by knocking off her top-ranked team.
In her first season at Florida, Jenny Rowland will return to Auburn Arena Friday at 7:30 p.m.
"I'm so very excited to bring my team back to a place I have so much respect and admiration for," Rowland said. "Auburn's girls will always have a special place in my heart."
Rowland helped recruit and develop many of Auburn's gymnasts during her five seasons on Jeff Graba's staff.
"If it weren't for Jeff and Auburn Athletics, I wouldn't be where I am today," she said.
"We take a lot of pride in that," Graba said. "She was being pursued for good jobs pretty much every year she was here. It was going to take something special to take her away from Auburn, and obviously this was it.
"It means there's something about our system that people want," Graba said. "I think it's paying off for her. I think she's using some of the stuff that she's taken from here and she's obviously putting her own stamp on it as well. I'm very proud of her. And really proud of our program for being a part of that."
"I'm putting information I gained at Auburn to work where I am now," Rowland said.
"It'll be good to see her," Graba said. "It'll be good to talk to her about where she is in her process and where we are in our process and try to put them up against each other."
The reunion will need to wait until after the meet.
"Maybe afterwards, we'll exchange hugs and say, `Hi,'" said Auburn senior Kait Kluz. "But I think before and during the meet, it's really important for us to stay in our bubble."
Auburn is ranked No. 8 after a demanding start in which the Tigers had three meets in eight days.
The Tigers, whose average score is 196.175, beat Oregon State on the road and Kentucky at home, before losing to Alabama in Birmingham.
"I actually like the fact that we're frustrated right now," said Graba, who is in his sixth season at Auburn.
"When I first got here, I think our first year we never scored a 196," he said. "The fact that we're going three 196s and we're frustrated and two of them are on the road, that's a pretty big deal for this program right now."
Taking down the three-time defending national champion Gators would be an even bigger deal.
"It's definitely going to be exciting," Auburn sophomore Abby Milliet said. "It's going to be fun to have them at home. A lot of excitement. Hopefully we can show them what we've got."
"It's a business trip," Rowland said. "I'm telling my Gators, `Go in and have fun and do what we're trained to do.'"
"It's really about us," Graba said. "It's early in the season for her. It's early in the season for us. She'll be happy if she gets out of here with a win. I'll be happy if she has a long bus ride home."