March 21, 2011
AUBURN - The No. 22 Auburn gymnastics team began post-season competition Saturday afternoon at the SEC Championship in Birmingham, Ala. The Tigers placed sixth posting a 195.325 to defeat Kentucky (193.950).
Auburn finished behind No. 2 Alabama, top-ranked Florida, No. 8 Georgia, 11th-ranked Arkansas and No. 19 LSU to fall to 7-11, but head coach Jeff Graba felt that the Tigers had one of their best meets of the season.
"We handled the pressure extremely well," Graba said. "I thought our girls stayed focused throughout the whole meet. I thought we accomplished what we set out to accomplish. We looked better on the equipment, did a better job and hit 23-for-24 routines. For the most part, the team is rolling right now. We felt like that was one of the main things we had to accomplish at that meet now going into post-season."
Auburn participated in a different style of meet than traditional regular-season meets, with seven teams competing simultaneously. Five of the six teams that the Tigers faced were ranked 19th or higher.
"What I like is that our team did a really good job of adjusting to the intensity," Graba said. "It was an intense meet. All the teams did a pretty good job. I felt like our team rose to the occasion. We did one of our best performances and that's all you can ask for. Our athletes rose to the occasion and did as good as they possibly could."
After beginning the season with a new coaching staff and facing injuries, Graba notes that Auburn is finally healthy and still improving as a team.
"I think we are still improving at this point partially due to the late start," Graba said. "We didn't get a full staff here until October. With me getting here the day before school started, I think it took a while for everyone to get used to a different system. I think they are finally settling into a different system, and it's finally showing because we are continuing to improve each meet.
"Also we are finally healthy now the last four or five weeks so I don't think it's a secret that when you are healthy the talent shows through. Finally we are in a good spot health wise, and we are comfortable with the system so I think that you are seeing that manifest out on the equipment."
Selections for the 2011 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships will be announced this afternoon.