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'A big step forward' - Improving No. 14 Auburn gymnasts host No. 2 LSU
Sophomore Emma Engler says it's fun to compete against top teams like No. 2 LSU.
Feb. 23, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn competes against No. 2 LSU Friday at 7:30 p.m., but the gymnasts say Auburn’s real competition, is Auburn.

“When we compete against these big teams, it’s not as much who wins and who loses,” sophomore Emma Engler said. “Basically, the teams are competing with you at the same time and the same place.

“It’s really fun to be against those big teams. It draws a big crowd. You just think of what was successful from the last meet. Think about what you want to improve upon and focus on those things. Focus on your team and not what the other team is doing.”

Auburn’s most recent meet was its most successful of the season. The Tigers scored 196.450 at Alabama, earning a No. 14 ranking this week.

“It was fun to finally get out there and feel like we competed like we can and we made improvements where we wanted to,” Engler said. “We still know what we have to improve upon. Overall, it was a success, and it was a lot of fun.”

“Last Friday was a big deal,” coach Jeff Graba said. “It was a road meet against our rival, and it was a tough environment. And for the young people to step up, it was a big confidence boost. I think it was a step forward. Probably a big step forward for us.”

To build on that momentum, the Tigers hope to correct small mistakes, such as taking steps on landings.

“We felt like we did a better job staying in our bubble,” Graba said. “We felt like we did a better job with our energy management, which at times with a young team was displaced. It was getting lost. We need do the little things better. We left a lot on the table. So there’s a challenge. Do what we did last week and then improve upon the performances a little bit.”



With increasing scores comes improved confidence. The challenge, Auburn senior Lucia Scaglione says, is to avoid putting pressure on themselves against a highly ranked rival in a nationally televised (SEC Network) meet.

“We’re treating it as any other meet,” Scaglione said. “Just because we’re going against No. 2 it doesn’t change anything. We’re still going to focus on what we need to do to get better. Focus on the little things, like our landings. Keep focusing on our energy and having fun.”

“We have the toughest schedule in the country,” Graba said. “And we knew it was going to be tough on a young team to go up against basically all top 10 competition. It’s one thing to lose close ones. It’s another thing to struggle with your own performance, and I think that was getting under their skin.”

Auburn’s last regular season win against LSU came in 2013 when the Tigers scored 197.175, a school record at the time.

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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