Brittany Webster and Auburn looking for success in the SEC Championships on Saturday
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Now, the fun part starts, now that Auburn has qualified for the coveted night session of the Southeastern Conference gymnastics championships; now that the Tigers get a chance to show they belong.
The Tigers will compete against some of the nation's best teams in the meet in Duluth, Ga., that begins at 6 Saturday.
"Our goal as a team this season, as far as SECs, was to make night session and we've accomplished that," said gymnast Caitlin Atkinson. "For us it's about going out, having fun and showing that we deserve to be there and we didn't just happen to make that spot, but earned the spot.
"We're going out there with the mentality of let's have fun, put on a show and do Auburn gymnastics. We're really excited because we have nothing to lose."
The Tigers will appear in the second session of the championship for the first time in program history and will be up against traditional SEC and national powers Alabama, LSU and Florida. The competition begins at 5 p.m., Auburn time, and a live stream is available on SEC Network+.
This will be Auburn's 30th appearance in the SEC Championships, the first time with a Top 10 ranking. Auburn is No. 8. Florida is ranked second, LSU is ranked third and Alabama is ranked fifth.
The Tigers come in with a Regional Qualifying Score of 197.025, the highest in school history, an important number because Auburn is trying to improve its standing for the NCAA Regional it will host April 4.
First, though, the SECs.
"It's exciting, it's new for our girls, but we've had a lot of new territory this year so it's been good," said coach Jeff Graba. "They are excited, but they are also going to have to manage their excitement a little bit. Gymnastics is great to be excited for, but you have to be in control too."
Auburn has done some of its best work against tougher competition, almost beating LSU and setting the school scoring record against Georgia.
"This team has been really good against top competition," Graba said.
Graba spent this week, after resting some of his gymnasts in last Friday's win over North Carolina, "to sharpen up the team and get them back on their game a little bit. At the same time, if we do it right, there's five weeks left in this season. That's an eternity in gymnastics. We've got to keep people healthy and manage our own expectations and make sure we keep the end goal in mind and use this as testing ground, but remind ourselves that this is just another meet. If we do it the right way we're in good shape."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow himon Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine