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'Clean slate' - Auburn gymnasts ready for SEC Championship
Auburn coach Jeff Graba, with senior MJ Rott, hopes to continue the Tigers' strong SEC Championship showings.
March 18, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - A fresh start awaits Auburn’s gymnastics team Saturday in the SEC Championship in Jacksonville, Fla.

We’re really excited going into postseason,” said senior Kullen Hlawek. “It really is like a clean slate. We’ve left everything in the past. The season hasn’t really gone the greatest, but we can start over completely and really show people what we can do.”

Auburn, the No. 7 seed, will compete in the afternoon session at 1 p.m. with No. 5 seed Kentucky, No. 6 seed Missouri and No. 8 seed Arkansas.

“We don’t have any pressure on us at all, and that kind of makes it a little bit better for us,” Hlawek said. “We’re just going to try to go in and do the best we can without the pressure and maybe cause a little bit of ruckus in the later sessions.”

A victory over Pittsburgh on Senior Night created momentum for the postseason.

“We’ve been working very hard on confidence this week,” sophomore Taylor Krippner said. “That’s our main goal going into SECs is to build confidence for regionals.”

Under coach Jeff Graba, Auburn has enjoyed its visits to the SEC Championship, setting program record scores in 2013 and 2016, and qualifying for the night session for the first time in 2015.

“The secret to having a good performance in postseason is, you first off have to get on a roll somehow, and when you get on a roll, you have to stay on that roll,” Graba said. “That’s where we’ve struggled. It’s so hard to restart. What I want to see is once we get started, we can stay started. We did it twice against Pittsburgh.



“I feel like we’re starting to hit our stride on the events, but we’re still leaving some stuff out there,” Graba said. “That’s what we want to try to accomplish. Go out there, ignore what’s around us and try to do a better job of what we can do.”

Graba said a successful meet for Auburn would be easy to evaluate.

“I just need to see hit routines,” Graba said. “In my estimation we did 22 out of 24 last Friday on Senior Night. That was alright, because we didn’t compound a mistake. We need to do 23 or 24 out of 24.”

“If we do that, that means they’re getting rid of the distractions, they’ve moving forward and performing at a high level, and the score will take care of itself. We’ve got to do what we can do and that’s hit routines.”

After the SEC Championship, Auburn’s postseason will continue at an NCAA Regional on April 1.

“It’s really the tale of two seasons,” Graba said. “We didn’t do a great job during the regular season preparing ourselves with confidence that we can hit on a consistent basis. We did a little bit at the end. We got a little bit better. We’re sort of cramming for the final, and the SEC Championship is part of that.”

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

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