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Auburn gymnasts look for next step to NCAA championships
April 4, 2015

Caitlin Atkinson, left, Kelsey Kopec and Auburn looking for a big showing in the NCAA Regional

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. --  Caitlin Atkinson is hoping a big showing in the all-around Saturday night will solidify her trip to the NCAA gymnastics championship in Fort Worth in two weeks.

Oh, but she doesn't want to go it alone.

The Auburn All-American gymnast is hoping her trip will include all her teammates and Auburn, as a team, can earn its way to the NCAA Championship by finishing first or second in Saturday night's NCAA Regional in Auburn Arena. The top two teams in the six-team regional will quality for the nationals on April 17-19.

"I'm not trying to win the all-around for myself. I'm trying to do it for the team," Atkinson said. "I don't want to go to nationals by myself. I want to go with the team.

"I've been by myself and it's great to represent Auburn, but I wouldn't be where I am this season and doing the gymnastics I'm doing without my teammates."

The Auburn regional starts at 6 p.m.  Alabama is seeded first, followed by Auburn, Minnesota, Iowa, Maryland and George Washington.  Two teams from each of the six regionals advance to the NCAA Championship.

"We're really up for producing energy in the gym," Atkinson said. "We're ready Saturday to cheer us on and we have our fans in the arena so it's going to make it that much easier to produce energy to have fun and do the gymnastics we know how to do."

Auburn coach Jeff Graba says the demands in the regional will be different after a good regular season.

"We are a better team and it's about going out and being sharp and making a statement rather than scraping and clawing trying to beat someone ahead of us," he said.

Graba said the Tigers are "about as healthy as we've been the whole year." He strategically rested some of his gymnasts to be ready for the NCAAs.
"The positive is we have everyone available," Graba said, "the negative is we have eight or nine really good girls on each event and the coaches have to decide about who's going in."

The other issue: Keeping their emotions in check.

"I think we were too up for SECs. I think it was apparent we were bouncing all over the place," Graba said. "We're finally where it's all about beating four teams. I don't care who the four teams are, we just have to beat them. If we aren't good, we can't beat them. The thing I do like is the SEC is full of pressure every weekend and I think the girls are prepared for pressure, but this is a new area for Auburn to be in."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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