A Final Four banner was hung, Suni Lee won the all-around and Derrian Gobourne (along with her equally as exciting family) stole the show once again. What once might have seemed like a dream has since become reality inside Neville Arena.
A near-capacity crowd was on hand to witness Auburn gymnastics, and the Tigers did not disappoint, improving from last week and scoring a 197.500 in a home opening win against Arkansas.
It was a rough start for Auburn on vault, with Olivia Hollingsworth scoring a 9.7 and Sophia Groth following that with a 9.725. The Tigers made up for it, finishing strong behind Cassie Stevens(9.925), Lee(9.95) and Gobourne(9.85), taking a slim lead into the second rotation.
Onto bars, the Tigers kept the momentum behind several 9.85s from Hollingsworth, Stevens, Gobourne and Gabby McLaughlin, with Lee leading the charge again, scoring a 9.975.
In the third rotation, the Tigers and Razorbacks tied with Auburn on beam and Arkansas on the floor. McLaughlin and Sophia Groth led the charge with 9.9s, while Lee and Aria Brusch earned 9.85s and Stevens rounded out the scoring with a 9.8.
Arkansas remained in range of the Tigers through three rotations, as the Razorbacks trailed by one-tenth of a point going to the beam, and Auburn headed to the floor. In the final event, Arkansas fell apart, with three sub-9.7 scores as the Tigers roared to the finish behind a masterclass of Suni Lee and Derrian Gobourne.
Floor opened with a solid 9.9 from Olivia Hollinsgworth, along with Brusch registering a 9.85 and Stevens adding a 9.875. The one stumble on the event came from Sophia Groth, who was one of Auburn’s best gymnasts on the event last season, but was not on floor during the first two meets of the season.
“A little bit of injury and she had a procedure done in November,” Auburn head coach Jeff Graba explained. “We're trying not to push her too hard.”
Then, all eyes turned to Auburn’s Olympic Gold medalist, Suni Lee. Debuting a new routine that was partially choreographed by Gabby McLaughlin, Lee narrowly missed a perfect 10, finishing the event with a 9.975.
“We definitely still have a lot to work on, but floor is one of the best rotations we've had in a while,” said Lee. “I've just gotta go up there and do what I do.”
Despite one judge scoring the final routine of the evening as a 10, Gobourne did not score a 10 on the floor, instead finishing with a 9.95, giving Lee the title in three of four events. A good ending on the floor concluded a solid night for the Tigers, but Graba continues to look ahead to what is next for this team.
“They're family and they are going to do what it takes to win,” Graba said. “The goal is to be at our best in March and April, not in January.”
Gobourne, Lee and the rest of the Tigers will be back home next week to face off with NC State on January 27. The meet is set to begin at 7 p.m. CST.
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