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April 11, 2007
MORGANTOWN, W.V. -
In pursuit of its fourth trip to the NCAA Championships, the 17th-ranked Auburn gymnastics squad will look to continue its season by finishing in the top two at the Southeast Regional in Morgantown, W.V., on Saturday at 5 p.m. CT.
The third seeded Tigers (6-13, 1-5 SEC) will be making their 15th regional appearance and fourth in a row when they battle No. 5 LSU, No. 8 UCLA, No. 22 NC State, No. 24 West Virginia and No. 30 North Carolina at WVU Coliseum.
"This will be one of the tougher regionals in the country," head coach Jeff Thompson said. "Regionals always comes down to the teams that hit their routines, and we think we are healthy and ready enough to do that."
The Tigers rank 11th in the country on beam and are also 13th on vault, 18th on floor and 19th on bars.
Individually, junior Julie Dwyer is ranked fifth in the country in the all around. The Bloomington, Ind., native is also seventh nationally on beam, tied for 14th on vault and tied for 23rd 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.
On March 31, Dwyer was named SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year for gymnastics, making her the first gymnast in SEC history to be named Freshman of the Year, Gymnast of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
The Tigers will begin on a bye before heading to the floor in the second rotation. From there, Auburn will go to vault, have another bye and finish its last two rotations with bars and then beam.
"Beam has been one of our strongest events all year, so I am happy we will end on that event," Thompson said. "I like our draw the more I think about it."
Auburn is 26-54 all-time against the field at the Southeast Regional. If you leave out SEC foe LSU, who the Tigers have an 8-43 record against, Auburn is 18-11.
AU will try to duplicate the same magic it fostered in 2003, when it advanced to Nationals in much the same circumstance. In 2003, the Tigers were ranked 17th in the country and headed to the Central Regional as the No. 3 seed with a roster that was dwindled to just nine gymnasts. Auburn pulled off the upset over seventh ranked Oklahoma and made it to Nationals. Heading into the weekend, the Tigers are ranked 17th and will be three seed with a roster of just nine gymnasts.
The Tigers' best mark is against NC State, where they have an 8-1 mark overall. Auburn and NC State faced off earlier this season, with the Tigers taking a 194.375-192.075 win on Jan. 12 in Auburn.
The only team Auburn has never defeated is UCLA, who is 3-0 vs. the Tigers. Auburn last faced UCLA at the NCAA Championships in 2003 in Lincoln, Neb. The Bruins went on to win the National title, while AU placed 12th.
Auburn last faced North Carolina on March 12, 2004 with a 195.725-194.225 win for AU. The Tigers last met with West Virginia on Jan. 13, 2006 on The Plains with Auburn coming away with a 195.300-188.125 victory.
Auburn and LSU will meet for the 52nd time in their history and for the third time this season. AU picked up a win over LSU on Feb. 17 at LSU, but LSU has four straight.
The Southeast Regional is one of six regionals comprised of six teams that are all vying for the coveted 12 spots at the NCAA Championships, which will take place from April 26-28 in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to the six teams, each regional also has five all-around competitors, who are not on a qualifying team, and one individual event specialist per event (who has a minimum Regional Qualifying Score of 9.4). From each regional, the top two teams and the top two all-around competitors, who are not on an advancing team, will receive an automatic berth to the national championships. Event winners, whose teams do not advance, will also advance to the championships.
You can follow along live by logging on to www.auburntigers.com.