By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn’s gymnastics team will try to duplicate the Tiger softball team's achievement by knocking off No. 1 Oklahoma.
One day after Auburn softball opened the season by beating the top-ranked Sooners, No. 16 Auburn gymnastics, which shares the McWhorter Center with the softball team, gets its shot at Oklahoma.
“It’s going to be really fun for our team to go against them,” sophomore A’Miracal Phillips said. “I know we’re going to have a lot of fun on the road and stick together in our bubble which is the best part, because we like to act crazy.”
Auburn coach Jeff Graba wants his team to cherish, and learn from, the opportunity.
“You can’t hide from the fact they’re No. 1, and you actually want to talk about it because at some point you’re going to have to go up against these top teams at a regional meet, SECs, or nationals,” Graba said. “And everybody’s good. So you want to embrace the fact that it’s a high-quality team over there.”
Auburn and Oklahoma will meet Friday at 6:45 p.m. CT in the Perfect 10 Challenge in the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, 20 miles north of the Sooners’ campus in Norman.
“It’s basically a home meet for No. 1 Oklahoma,” Graba said. “I think the girls are looking forward to it because it’s a good test. But it’s on a podium again. It goes back to us preparing for postseason.”
Auburn competed on podium two weeks ago against Alabama in Birmingham, two days after a meet at Florida. During warmups at the Florida meet, the Tigers lost one of their most seasoned gymnasts, Abby Milliet, to an injury.
Last week, the Tigers returned to Auburn Arena, passing the 196 mark in a close defeat to Arkansas.
“The farther we get away from these last three meets, the better they look,” Graba said. “With all things being said, Abby not in the lineup now after that Friday night debacle against Florida, the meet was good against Florida.
“We had three great events against Alabama and a young team got in their own way on the final event, which is possible on beam. Beam is a tough event, especially for a young team.
“I felt like we did seven of eight great events. Then last Friday night, we were finally Auburn again. One or two mistakes, and we go 197 and win the meet, and the whole world is looking different to us right now.”
“I’m actually excited about where we are. I think the girls, it’s not a secret, they actually have to put it together, but we’re not making the same mistake over and over again. At some point, we’ll get it figured out.”
Next week, Auburn will have another chance to defeat its in-state rival, with a meet in Tuscaloosa. A strong showing against No. 1 Oklahoma would create momentum heading into the rivalry rematch.
“It’ll definitely give us confidence because right now, I feel like it’s about improving as a team ourselves and not really going against anyone else,” Phillips said. “Not really worrying about them at all. So it’ll be good for us.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer