March 19, 2009
The 11th-ranked Auburn gymnastics team (6-5, 3-3 SEC) will travel to Nashville, Tenn., for the Southeastern Conference Gymnastics Championship set to take place on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Sommet Center. The SEC will carry live stats on www.secsports.com. FSN will tape-delay the meet on March 28 at 6 p.m.
"We are super excited to be in Nashville and the Sommet Center for the SEC Championship," head gymnastics coach Jeff Thompson said. "This is one of the premier arenas in the nation and we know that our fans from the area are very excited to have the opportunity to see the SEC Championship in their home state."
Thompson's squad enters the league championship after suffering a 195.825-195.750 loss to No. 18 Ohio State last week. After a shaky third rotation on beam, the Tigers made a ferocious comeback on floor by posting a season high 49.475 and the trio of seniors swept the top-three spots. Despite the loss, the Tigers received five scores of 9.9 or higher against the Buckeyes. Mills' contributed on vault, bars and floor and Puckett added a pair on vault and floor.
"Auburn is ready for the SEC Championship," Thompson said. "We had a bad night last Friday and I think that the three falls on beam were God's way of reminding all of the upperclassmen how they felt last year after Regionals. They couldn't wait to get back in the gym and they couldn't wait for this season to get here to prove that the falls were a fluke and that they were a deserving team. Although disappointing, I think it was just the type of night we needed to get focused for the SEC Championship. We are hoping for a great road score to help us move back up from No. 11 back into the top 10."
In this week's GymInfo rankings, Auburn is ranked 11th. The Tigers sport a RQS of 196.390 and are ranked fifth on floor (49.250), 10th on beam (49.065) and vault (49.175) and 13th on bars (49.035).
Senior Lindsey Puckett is listed as the nation's No. 4 all-arounder (39.50) and senior A.J. Mills is tied for seventh (39.445). Individually, Puckett is tied for fifth on vault, is eighth on floor (9.900) and is tied for 10th on beam (9.885). Mills appears in the top 25 on bars and beam.
All seven SEC teams are nationally ranked and five are listed among the nation's top 10. Georgia is the nation's top-ranked team with a RQS of 197.225, followed by fourth-ranked LSU (196.760). Alabama is fifth (196.720), Florida is sixth (196.565) and Arkansas is ninth (196.440). Auburn is ranked 11th and Kentucky is 22nd. At least four league schools rank among the nation's top 10 on each event and six teams are ranked as top-10 vaulting squads.
During the regular season, Georgia finished with a 6-0 mark in conference action and LSU was 4-2. Three teams, Florida, Auburn and Arkansas, wrapped up league competition with a 3-3 mark. Alabama was 2-4, followed by Kentucky at 0-6.
"It is going to be an exciting meet after a topsy-turvy regular season," Thompson said. "For instance, during the regular season we lost to Alabama by 0.025 and Florida by 0.25, but then we beat Arkansas and LSU. Arkansas and LSU then beat both Alabama and Florida. The only unblemished record is held by Georgia and I think that they, too, are beatable on the right night.
"Much of it will come down to the draw and who starts where and who follows who on Saturday. The rest comes down to who is the most consistent on all four events. One step on one landing on just one event will separate the winner from second place."
Last year at the SEC Championship, the Tigers finished fifth with a 196.100. Auburn finished ahead of Arkansas (194.650) and Kentucky (194.025). The night was capped off as Puckett was named co-SEC Gymnast of the Year and Thompson was named co-SEC Coach of the Year for the second time in his career.
Auburn's highest finish at the SEC Championship came with Robert Dillard at the helm, guiding the Tigers to third-place finishes in 1992 and 1993. The Tigers have only crowned one conference champ in the events 29-year history with Becky Erwin winning beam in 1994 with a 9.925.