On the road once again, No. 5 Auburn gymnastics traveled to one of the toughest environments in all of college gymnastics, the Swamp. At the home of the No. 2 Gators, the Tigers led after the first rotation, but Florida pulled away behind three perfect 10s, winning the meet with a score of 197.825 to Auburn’s 197.200. 

“I thought we did really well,” Auburn coach Jeff Graba said. “A really aggressive environment. We weren’t really sharp so I thought we fought really hard today. I wish we were a little bit cleaner but I’m really happy with where we are. A decent road score.”

That road score for the Tigers would be, excluding last season’s miraculous run, the second-best at a road meet in program history, which exemplifies the new standard set with the arrivals of Suni Lee and Sophia Groth last season.

There was a lot of anticipation surrounding this contest. A top-5 matchup, a rematch from last year’s meet in Neville Arena, which is the highest scoring dual meet in NCAA gymnastics history, and the SEC opener for two of the conference's top contenders. 

Auburn weathered the storm early with a solid rotation on bars, bolstered by a 9.9 and 9.875 courtesy of Suni Lee and Derrian Gobourne. The Tigers even led Florida out of the gate .025 of a point, but the Gators rallied behind a raucous home crowd and the terrific trio of Kayla DiCello, Leanne Wong, and Trinity Thomas.

All three shined on bars in the second rotation, with Wong scoring her first 10 of the night, Thomas landing a 9.975 and DiCello earning a solid 9.925, enough to give the Gators the lead, one they would keep for the rest of the match. 

Auburn fell behind with a 49.225 on vault, lower than its near record-setting 49.500 from the Las Vegas meet. Gobourne and Lee shined again with a pair of 9.9s, and Cassie Stevens added a score of 9.850.

In the third rotation, the Gators tightened their grip on the lead with another spectacular 10 on beam, followed by a narrow 9.975 from Trinity Thomas, which led to boos directed at the judges from the raucous home crowd.

This season, Thomas is making a case as one of the greatest college gymnasts in history, and she certainly added to that with a stellar performance in front of her fans. 

With a 9.925 and a 9.975 in the first two rotations, Thomas bounced back from a misstep on beam to land another perfect 10 on the floor, her fifth straight dating back to last season. She now has 11 perfect 10s on the floor and 22 overall, which is the fourth-most in history. 

Even with Thomas inching closer to history, Leanna Wong was the star of the show with two 10s and a 9.975 on the floor in the fourth rotation, giving her the all-around title for the evening. 

Suni Lee and Cassie Stevens both led the way for the Tigers in the all-around, finishing the evening with scores of 39.525. Stevens had a strong ending to the night with a 9.9 on floor in the third rotation, followed by a team-leading 9.925 on beam to end the meet. 

“My warm-ups were a little shaky so it felt good to go out there and have the confidence to put together a great routine for the team,” Stevens said.

For Suni Lee, she wrapped up the night with a 9.85 on the floor and a 9.875 on beam. 

Two tough road environments for Auburn, and now the Tigers will head back home to what should be a sellout crowd in Neville Arena.

“I’m excited to get two days of practice and to get some rest,” said Graba. “I’m looking forward to the banner night and the big crowd in Neville Arena.”

Auburn will look to continue its solid start to the year with the home opener next week against No. 16 Arkansas. The Tigers and the Razorbacks will square off in primetime at 7:30 p.m.

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