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'It was incredible' - Sellout inspires Tigers
Jan. 26, 2016

Jeff Shearer

Whether you're a seasoned senior, or a wide-eyed freshman, competing in front of a sellout crowd gets your attention.

"It was incredible. I loved being around so many people," Auburn freshman Taylor Krippner said. "Being in club gymnastics, you normally have your family and friends come. Having the support of your whole entire school was absolutely incredible."

7,424. The second gymnastics sellout in Auburn Arena history.

"Looking through the tunnel and seeing all of the lights and just the energy you feel; the adrenaline really kicks in before you come out," Krippner said. "Once they call your name, that's when you know it's college gymnastics."

Kelsey Kopec, in her fourth season in the program, scored a 9.825 on bars in Auburn's loss last Friday to top-ranked Florida.

"There is a point in each meet where I kind of just look up and notice how many people there are," Kopec said. "When I looked up this week, people were flowing into the third level.

"There's just so much energy at the end of every single routine whether it's the best routine you've ever done or whether we maybe had a small bobble," she said. "The entire crowd is cheering, and the "War Eagles!" It truly is an amazing experience having all of those people and all the energy with us throughout the entire night."

Being at your best on such a big stage can be challenging.

"I think our young people are struggling with the identity crisis of who they are and how to operate in an environment when this many people show up to see you," coach Jeff Graba said.

"You have that added intensity at home, not just with the crowd, with the energy, but you also don't want to let your fans down. And on the road, it's easy to let their fans down. It's good because I know our girls will rise to the occasion against Alabama here (Auburn's next home meet on Feb. 12) because they've already been in a big environment at home," he said.

"The road is important. We need to be good on the road. In the end, SECs are on the road, Regionals are on the road, and Nationals are on the road, so we've really got to figure it out, out there," he said.

The No. 9 Tigers will get another chance to figure it on the road Friday at No. 8 Arkansas at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.

But first, they'll have the opportunity to refine their routines in practice, a luxury Auburn's busy travel schedule has not allowed in previous weeks.

"We're looking forward to actually practicing. This will be our first week where we actually get two practices," Graba said. "And that's important because we're still making some minor mistakes that I think are cropping up consistently.

"We need to have a couple days to buckle down. I think it's exciting to be back in practice. I know the girls like to compete, but they also feel like they have some fixing to do."

Once those corrections are made, the Auburn gymnasts believe their best meet will follow.

"I'm very excited. Our previous meet has definitely motivated us to do better," Krippner said. "We haven't shown our full potential yet. And I think this coming meet we'll definitely be able to. Having a normal practice schedule for this week for the first time, it's really going to heighten our performance."



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