AUBURN — Even on a short week and following the lowest score of the season, the No. 7 Tigers are ready to turn the page at the right time with three meets to go before the SEC Tournament in Duluth.
One of the keys to Auburn improving throughout the year has been the resurgence of Sophia Groth. The sophomore gymnast dealt with surgery during the offseason and has been working her way back throughout the regular season schedule.
Groth faced some early challenges but scored a major victory during Saturday's meet in Missouri, winning her first-ever all-around title.
"It was a very memorable night for a lot of different reasons. But I was just excited to kind of put all my routine together. I know, it's been quite the journey and quite the season so far. And I was really happy with how it turned out," said Groth on winning the all-around.
One of the keys to Groth's success in the all-around came on the floor, one of her best events from her freshman season. Groth was held off the floor during the first two meets of the season as she continued to train, and when she made her first appearance in the event against Arkansas, she struggled and failed to connect one of her passes, resulting in a 9.3 on the scoreboard.
Groth's bounce-back from the tough start was almost immediate, with a 9.825 in the event the following week and three consecutive 9.9s in February.
"I mean floor, I started out pretty rough, and I was struggling to make the lineup, and then when I did get an opportunity, it wasn't my best routine," Groth said. "It's been awesome just to see all my hard work come to fruition these past couple of weeks."
In addition to the 9.9 on floor, Groth scored a 9.75 on vault, a 9.825 on bars and a 9.875 on the balance beam. The sophomore was one of Auburn's best gymnasts on beam last season, and it was announced on the Sunday broadcast that her beam features a dismount that was installed only three weeks ago.
"The rules changes this year impacted Sofia quite a bit. So we had to change her dismount, and we had two or three options. And none of them were great options at the time for her," said Auburn head coach Jeff Graba. "She's a strong-willed person, and she can handle it. And now this is what you get."
With Groth having to essentially practice in public due to the off-season surgery keeping her out of action in December, Graba has been impressed with her progress, especially on beam. Groth scored a 9.95 in the event eight times last season and is working her way back to that mark.
For Graba, the focus remains on the future and where this team can go. While the Missouri loss might have meant a missed opportunity to raise the NQS with a road score, Graba saw it as a worthy risk.
"We mapped out the year to make sure we rested those that will need it, and now with a short week, I like where we are," Graba said. "I think we're in a good spot with our depth, and this short turnaround should be ok for us."
The short turnaround will culminate with another raucous crowd at Neville, and tickets are already sold out. For Sophia Groth, despite facing several big-time environments during her young career, she still looks forward to another home meet.
"I mean, you can't beat the Auburn spirit and being at Neville Arena with the Gymnasties and the whole crowd. It's going to be a great meet," Groth said. "I'm just excited to be back."
The road to the SEC Tournament will not be an easy one as Auburn has another top-25 matchup on the horizon with No. 14 Georgia coming to town for Friday night heights. The meet is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. CST on the SEC Network.
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