March 25, 2011
AUBURN - The No. 22 Auburn gymnastics team (7-11, 2-4 SEC) is enjoying its first week without a meet this week since beginning the season on Jan. 7. The Tigers are working on preparations for the NCAA Central Regional Championship in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on April 2, at 6 p.m. CT.
"We were excited that we actually got to practice again this week because we went so long without practice," Auburn head coach Jeff Graba said. "We were able to go back to some of the basics that we needed to work on Monday, Tuesday and some of Thursday and break down some of the basics that we needed to work on trying to sharpen us up. We have been hitting routines, but we just haven't been as sharp as we want to be."
After spending the previous part of the week focusing on being sharper in practice, Auburn will participate in an intra-squad meet Friday that the team will use to prepare for next Saturday's regional.
"Today we are going to do the intra-squad meet in the same rotation that we will be in for regionals," Graba said. "I think today is our first step in preparing for regionals. The past four days have been more or less trying to clean up some known issues that we just haven't had time to get to."
Even with a week between meets, the Tigers are still focused for what is ahead of them.
"I think they are ready and prepared," Graba said. "I think we are pretty battled-tested. That is one of the reasons that we wanted to have an intra-squad meet is that they are on a system where they are getting ready every Friday night so we wanted to keep that going. We just didn't want to get completely out of our zone. Not only is it getting used to the other rotation but it is just a matter of wanting them to come in and be ready to go on a Friday night."
Auburn has several gymnasts that have been consistent on different events throughout the season with one of those being junior Justine Foster. Foster has been reliable on vault all season scoring a 9.750 or better on all 12 vaults but is still focused on achieving more.
"At the beginning of the season, I had a little bit of a rough patch," Foster said. "Now it's not a matter of if I am going to hit or not, but what I can do practicing the little details in my routine. It's not about hitting or not now; it's about what I can do better."
Senior Rachel Inniss has been another steady force on floor having been ranked in the top 20 for nine straight weeks. The New Mexico native is currently tied for 12th.
"I feel like I did really well at the beginning of the season," Inniss said. "I am starting to put a little more pressure on myself just because I started off well, and I want to finish that way. As far as floor goes, it has always been really easy for me to just go out and do what I have been doing as far as playing off the crowd and getting my energy up."
At this point in the season, the team has confidence in each other on every event and uses that dependence to stay focused on what needs to be done individually.
"I think if you are up on an event and you are focusing on the little things that means you are not worried about the big stuff," Graba said. "The last thing you want them to worry about is what someone else did. They need to be what we call `in the moment' out there. I think the fact that they are able to relax now and have confidence in their teammates and have confidence in the big things will allow us to be a little sharper and show off a little bit more."
The Tigers were selected as the No. 4 seed for the upcoming regional and will take on a region that features the host school, No. 2 Alabama, as well as No. 11 Penn State, No. 14 Illinois, No. 25 Central Michigan and Kentucky.