Feb. 20, 2014
Kait Kluz's role my increase before the season is done in Auburn's new lineup (Anthony Hall photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn's Kait Kluz checked out her performances on YouTube a few weeks back and concluded she's a different gymnast than the one she was watching from a year ago.
"I just feel a lot different. I feel a lot more confident with myself. I trust myself a lot more and definitely trust my teammates," Kluz said.
Kluz's role and performances had already taken a big jump this season before last week, and may again as coach Jeff Graba looks for a new lineup that must replace sparkplug Bri Guy for Friday's 7 p.m. Flip for the Cure pink meet against No. 6 Georgia in Auburn Arena. It was Guy who was leading Auburn to one of the top scores in school history last week before she blew out both her Achilles in the final routine of the meet.
She had surgery on her Achilles tendons on Wednesday and on Thursday she was taking it easy and…
…well, she was actually at practice.
"It helps to let them see that she's all right, and now they can move on with their stuff," Graba said. "She's still going to be a big part of the team. Her goal is to watch Friday. Whether she's doing gymnastics or not, she's critical to our team. The girls have embraced her new role, and they're excited to show what they can do as well."
Still, it's Graba's job to come up with a new lineup. It is, he indicated to the team, a puzzle.
"We basically said we have two lineups that are completely different, and then there's everything in between, so be ready for anything," he said.
Auburn is coming off the second-best score in school history, a 197.100 against Alabama. The Tigers used the score to move up to No. 10 nationally.
Auburn has little choice but to ask others, perhaps two, maybe three, gymnasts to fill Guy's role. One who may replace her on the beam and perhaps the all-around, either now or later, is Kluz, who is already doing the vault, bars and floor. Kullen Hlawek and MJ Rott could have bigger roles, too.
"Considering the adversity we've faced this year I think we've done a good job," Kluz said.
But Guy's injury is a real test, coming at the end of an otherwise successful meet against Alabama.
"There were mixed emotions. We're upset about the injury, but we're excited about the score."
Auburn has four regular-season meets remaining. Then, it's post-season.
"We have a smaller team so we have to manage and not ask too much of any one individual," Graba said. "It's really about post-season at the same time trying to peak for these meets."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine