Auburn’s rollercoaster gymnastic season came to an early end on Thursday after a collapse on bars. The Tigers were the No. 12 team in the nation heading into the quad meet and kept pace with Utah after two events, but three falls on bars led to Auburn finishing fourth in the meet, scoring 195.9 and unseeded Washington advancing to Saturday’s Regional Final.
“When you get to this meet, you have to be really good to move on,” Auburn coach Jeff Graba said. “You can’t have an event like we did on bars. We picked a bad night to have our worst night of the year.”
Auburn was without Suni Lee once again, but that did not stop the Tigers from having a strong start to the afternoon session of the Los Angeles Regional. Auburn’s afternoon began on floor and the Tigers were firmly in second after all five counted scores were above a 9.85 and capped off by a 9.925 from Derrian Gobourne, her highest floor score since the Georgia meet in Neville Arena.
Gobourne’s score is in contention for advancing to nationals, but it depends on the results from the evening session of the second round and the Regional Final on Saturday. The top all-around individual competitor not on an advancing team goes to nationals along with the top individual performer in each event.
From there, Auburn went to vault and finished with a solid 49.2 in the event. The Tigers were unable to break through the 9.9 ceiling, but a strong 9.875 to start from sophomore Carolins Leonard was bookended by a 9.875 from Gobourne.
Auburn trailed Utah by three-tenths, but was firmly in second with a three-tenths lead of its own as the teams headed to the third rotation and for Auburn that was bars.
Auburn had an extended break after the second rotation, finishing their event well before the other teams, but it was not an advantage as the Tigers opened with three-straight falls.
It all started with Olivia Hollingsworth not getting enough rotation and dropping from the bars to reset, then Gabby McLaughlin missed a handstand and fully rotated on the bar. The mistakes resulted in a 9.225 for Hollingsworth and a 9.25 for McLuaghlin, meaning Auburn would have to count one of the scores before Sophia Groth failed to connect the first skill of her bars routine and fell to the mat, earning an 8.875 in the event.
Auburn’s senior trio rallied with Aria Brusch scoring a 9.9, Cassie Stevens nailing a team-high 9.925 and Gobourne anchoring with a 9.85. It was a strong finish to the event after such a rocky start, but the damage was done and Auburn was firmly in fourth place with little to no chance of making a comeback.
Stevens’ score on bars puts her in range of qualifying for nationals, as attention turned to beam and more chances for individual qualifiers. Stevens missed her chance to be the top all-around competitor after a wobble on beam resulted in 9.750 for the senior. McLaughlin also missed out on 9.9 territory, anchoring the team with a 9.875 to cap off the night, while freshman Hannah Hagle was the leader in the event with a career-high 9.9, even scoring a 10 from one judge.
“For (Hagle) to do that on beam was a huge deal,” Graba said. “Caroline on vault, going 9.875 on a 9.95 (start value) vault. Derrian was great on floor. We got some really good performances, but as a group, not as consistent as we want.”
Stevens’ performance on bars and Gobourne’s on floor are both in qualifying range, but the Tigers will have to play the waiting game as individual qualifiers are not determined until after the Los Angeles Regional Final on Saturday. Utah and Washington are advancing to that meet, and await their opponents from the evening session.
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