Auburn's Bri Guy, left, Meagan Walker, MJ Rott, and Caitlin Atkinson plan to have fun tonight at NCAA Championships
By Charles Goldberg
The difficult part is over, says Bri Guy. Auburn is in the NCAA gymnastics championships for the first time since 2003, and they have marching orders from coach Jeff Graba for the main event that begins Friday night in Fort Worth.
"The one thing that sticks out because he says it every single day: 'Just go out there and have fun. You've done the hard part. This is the easy part. Have fun.'"
Bri Guy and Auburn's other gymnasts plan to do just that. The 12 best college teams in America are in Fort Worth, and, Friday, six will qualify for Saturday's Super Six championship event
Pressure? Auburn isn't thinking that way.
"I guess we can actually have fun now," Guy said.
Auburn is a rookie at these championships compared to the other teams. But the Tigers crashed this party with team records while laying the foundation for what they hope will be annual trip to the nationals.
Some of that's the future. Friday night, the Tigers hope to stay loose.
No problem, Guy said.
"We're a bunch of crazy people. I think everybody expects us to go in there and explode, just collapse, because it's the first time we've been there in 12 years. But it's going to be like 'What's up? We're ready to have some fun.' I don't think anyone is 'oh, my gosh, we have to be perfect. We have to prove ourselves.' We've proved ourselves. We've done that already. We're just to have fun."
This will be Guy's last event at Auburn. It will be that way for Auburn's four other seniors on the roster as well.
"There are too emotions to pinpoint one, but I guess it's incredible we've made it this far, that we worked this hard and accomplished a goal that we, as a class, wanted to achieve," she said.
Guy and teammate Caitlin Atkinson have been to the championships. They competed as individuals in the all-around in 2013, but Auburn didn't make it.
"Going to as a team, it's going to be a lot easier to deal with adversity because you have all those people there to back you up," Guy said.
Atkinson said Auburn achieved its goal of making the championships.
"Now that we've made it, obviously, Super Six is a goal," she said.
Atkinson said the Tigers can advance if they "have fun and do the gymnastics we know how to do. That's when we do our best. If we make Super Six, that's an added bonus. If we don't, we know we gave it our all and had fun. That's what's really important to us. We've changed the direction of this program, and we hope to continue changing it as the years come. This is the first steppingstone to more great things happening over the years."
Graba can toy with his lineup, placing gymnasts in the order he needs, asking them to do riskier, high-scoring routines when necessary. Underdog Auburn plans to have a bold approach, he said.
Auburn had long ago accepted his team concept.
"If you want to be in nationals," Guy said, "you have to forfeit a spot now and then and, if they're better than you, you have to let them have it. That's going to be the betterment of the team. That's the thing we had to learn."
The championship will be crowned Saturday night, but the event runs through Sunday for individual performances. Then it's back to reality.
"When we come back Monday," Guy said, "it's going to be 'I'm done. What do I do?' We're not going to think about it just yet."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine