Megan Walker says wait worth it for Auburn gymnastics
March 18, 2015

MeganWalker
Auburn's Megan Walker can celebrate on the way to the SEC Championships

By Charles Goldberg
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala.-- Megan Walker has calculated just how far the Auburn gymnastics program has come in since she arrived on campus.

"Miles and miles and miles," the senior said.

Now, with the highest score in school history in hand, Auburn is headed to the coveted night session appearancein the Southeastern Conference Championships at 5 Central time Saturday in Duluth, Ga. The Tigers will compete against traditional gymnastics powers Florida, LSU and Alabama. All four teams are ranked in the Top 8 nationally.

Walker has waited for this moment, from committing to Auburn with the previous coaching staff, to new coach Jeff Graba honoring the commitment when he arrived.

"I was lucky enough that Jeff took the job because he recruited me when he was at Utah. I was, 'Thanks for keeping me here,'" Walker said.

It's been steady climb for the six seniors.

"We had to change the way people motivated in the gym, outside of the gym, decision-making, nutrition, every aspect of this sport has changed for all of us," Walker said. "All those little things add up in the difference that has been made since then."

That means the stakes are rising. Auburn's Regional Qualifying Score is 197.025, the highest in school history. A good showing in the SEC Championships will further Auburn's cause, and seeding, when it plays host to an NCAA Regional on April 4. The logical step from there is the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth on April 17-19.

The success this season has included all sorts of individual records and team records in vault and bars.

"It's not over yet, so I'm still waiting on dessert to come," Walker said. "It's definitely been worth it. We've seen the hard work pay off. My class was the one that thought we would make nationals all four years and now we're at our senior year. It has to happen because we're done. This is it.

"It's been a long haul for this senior class and it's nice to see it finally pay off. It's just expected now. Before, these scores and attendance would have been surprising and now we should go 197 because that's what we do in the gym. It's nice."

Auburn has sold the program to the tune of a school-record 30,940 fans who watched the Tigers compete in five home meets. Auburn was fifth in the nation in total attendance.

Walker and the rest of the team sold the program.

"In the concourse, we give out sweets, we yell and cheer and chant," she said. "The attendance is necessary. It's not nearly as much fun to do gymnastics without people in the stands. You feed off their energy when you see 3,000 little girls staring up at you because it's exciting for them. You become even more motivated. 'I just want to get back to Friday night, I want to get back to Auburn Arena.' It makes competition a lot more fun."

This Friday night won't be in Auburn Arena. It's the Arena at Gwinnett Center, and Auburn is ready.

"I think we are all just ready for this week of training to be over," Walker said. "Practice is more and more boring every single week as you get further into the season and postseason. I think we're just excited.

"We're in a great spot going into this night session kind of being the underdogs.' Not kind of...' definitely being the underdogs. That's a good spot for us because we can enjoy ourselves when we just let loose and have fun.

"To LSU, Alabama and Florida we're still the team that's easy to beat and I think they should be a little more careful if they're making that assumption. We're ready to go and we've put in the work, too."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter:

 

 

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