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March 29, 2007
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -
With the regular season complete, the No. 17 Auburn gymnastics team (5-8, 1-5 SEC) begins its quest to the NCAA Championships, beginning at 6:05 p.m. on Saturday at the Southeastern Conference Championship.
The meet, which will be televised by Fox Sports Net and shown on tape-delay on April 7 at 6 p.m. CT., will be held on the podium and will be the only collegiate competition this season do so.
"It will be fun for our girls to compete on the podium, which is usually reserved for the Olympics and National Championships," head coach Jeff Thompson said.
Auburn, who has been snakebitten by injuries this season, lost yet another gymnast this week. Sophomore A.J. Mills injured her hand and will be out for the remainder of the season. In addition to Mills, the Tigers have also lost freshman Carmen Nelms, junior Kayla Gies and senior Nicole Barnett to season-ending injuries.
The good news for AU is that both junior Karmen Pinckney and freshman Krissy Voss will return to the lineup this weekend.
"Whoever we put in the lineup needs to hit their routines and do their job," Thompson said.
The Tigers rank in ninth in the country on beam and are also 11th on vault, 15th on floor and 18th on bars.
Individually, junior Julie Dwyer is ranked third in the country in the all around. The Bloomington, Ind., native is also fifth nationally on beam, 12th on vault and tied for 19th on floor. So far this season, Dwyer has collected 22 individual titles-- five in the all around, eight on beam, four on vault , three on bars and two on floor, bringing her career total to 59.
The 2006 SEC Gymnast of the Year will look to bring home her first conference championship title of her career, as she is a threat to take each of the five total events.
"I fully expect the judges to judge on each individual performance, and not on prior reputation or for the team they are on," Thompson said. "If that occurs, Julie could easily win any individual title on any of the four events, including the all around title."
The Tigers will be one of seven programs bidding for the SEC crown in what is the 27th year of the conference championships. The SEC Gymnastics Championships will be held at Alltel Arena in North Little Rock, Ark., for the first time in the history of the meet. Auburn has never finished higher than third at the conference championships and is coming off a 197.375-195.250 loss against Alabama on March 16. Georgia, the 2006 NCAA Champions, will look to defend their SEC title for the third year in a row and take home their seventh SEC crown in the last eight years, while Alabama will be aiming at winning their sixth conference title.
All seven of the SEC programs are currently ranked in the Top 25 of the Gym Info poll. In fact, the SEC boasts the top four teams in the country. Florida is undefeated on the season, in first place in the conference and ranked No. 1 in the country. Georgia, second in the SEC, is ranked second in the nation and has the highest score of any team this season. Alabama is third in the SEC and ranked third in the country, while LSU is ranked fourth in the conference and the country. Arkansas is 11th, Auburn is 17th and Kentucky is tied for 25th.
Tickets are $12-14 and available at the Alltel Arena Box Office, all ticketmaster outlets, charge by phone 501-975-7575 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.