Auburn's Bri Guy, left, and Megan Walker celebrate at the NCAA Championships
By Charles Goldberg
Now comes the easy part for the Auburn gymnastics team, says its coach, now that the Tigers have made Saturday night's Super Six at the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth.
"There's no stress now. I think tonight they'll be finally able to compete free," says coach Jeff Graba. "The stress will be just hitting your routines. We've already solidified ourselves as one of the six best teams in the country."
Auburn did that Friday night by making the Super Six for the first time in 22 years. The Tigers did it by by finishing in the top three in Friday's second session, and now the No. 8 Tigers will be competing Saturday night against No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Utah, No. 5 Alabama, and No. 11 Stanford.
It'll be a quick turnaround for Auburn after competing into the night Friday. But Graba had a plan for that. Auburn competed at Kentucky on a Friday night, then turned around and faced Alabama that Sunday earlier in the season.
"We did that on purpose," Graba said. "One of the main reasons we did it is if we did make Super Six, we needed a quick turnaround. The girls were good on the next day. You're always worried about getting dinged up, but we have a deep team."
Now, the stakes are higher, even in Auburn's record-breaking year.
"The biggest drawback being in the night session the first day is you have a quicker turnaround than three other teams. And this is new for our team," Graba said. "The other five teams have been all to the Super Six, so they all have a good plan and know how to manage it. We're executing our plan, but the girls are basically in new territory, but they've been in new territory the last two months."
Graba said Friday night went according to his hoped-for script.
"We went into the meet knowing that we'd have to be really good. In that environment, they're new to it, they've never been there before. Going in, you never know how they're going to handle it. I thought they did a fantastic job," Graba said.
"You're excited and, at the same time, there's relief. They lived up to their expectations."
Auburn last rotation Friday night was a bye. The Tigers had to sit and wait as Nebraska made a final bid to knock Auburn out of the Super Six.
"It was out of our control, but we knew we had a decent lead," Graba said. "We also knew Nebraska would have to do something that wasn't done all day on bars. They were going to have to score a pretty big score. We felt pretty confident, but you're apprehensive the whole time until you get three or four scores into it."
Auburn will happily go through it again Saturday night.
"The positive thing for us is it's the same rotation we had last night. We don't have to reinvent the wheel," Graba said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine