Auburn gymnasts advance to NCAA Finals as Suni Lee wins beam title


Auburn advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships on Thursday, securing the program its best finish in national competition. The Tigers advanced to Saturday’s championship round with a strong all-around performance at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Auburn will compete for the national championship against three other teams at noon CDT Saturday. Television coverage is planned on ABC.

Coach Jeff Graba’s Tigers, seeded No. 7 for the Elite Eight round, beat defending national champions Michigan and Missouri while qualifying second in the evening session behind the SEC champion, Florida.

The Gators caught Auburn in the fourth and final rotation Thursday night with a strong performance on the floor exercise to finish with a Florida score of 197.9750. Auburn scored an Auburn 197.8375, the third-highest team total in program history.

Auburn rookie Suni Lee won the individual national championship on balance beam with a score of 99.625. “The last two meetings I’ve struggled on the beam, so coming back and restoring that confidence means a lot,” Lee said. “The team makes everything so much better because it’s so memorable, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

Missouri posted a 197.2000 while Michigan, who led after the opening rotation, finished fourth at 196.2875 after struggling on bars and beam.

In the previous session, Oklahoma posted the highest score at 198.1125 to advance to the finals with Utah at 197.7125. Minnesota at 197.1125 and Alabama at 197.1000 did not qualify.

Auburn head coach Jeff Graba said the key to his team’s success Thursday night was to stay loose and have fun. “When they made a mistake, they recovered,” the coach pointed out.

“At the start of this year, we had no experience,” he said. “Now we have experience. We’ll go all the way and see what we can find.

“I’m really proud of the band,” Graba said. “I thought we were capable of it at the very beginning of the year. They have worked there ever since. Good to see it paying off. »

Auburn was in second place behind Michigan after the opening rotation with a score of 49.5125 on beam. The Tigers took the lead after the second rotation with a score of 149.7500 on the ground.

The Tigers followed that up with a 49.2375 on vault to stay atop the standings.

Florida came in strong with a score of 49.7500 on floor in their fourth rotation to take the lead while Auburn scored 49.4750 on bars.

Suni Lee competes on bars during the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Championships Thursday night in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo: Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports)

Drew Watson led the Tigers in jumping with a 9.9250. Derrian Gobourne’s 9.9500 led the Tigers on bars and his 9.9625 also led the team on floor. “To qualify for the Final Four is just amazing,” said Gobourne. “I had a calm about myself and the team, even watching the first event I thought something big was going to happen. I wasn’t really focused on the result. I was just focused in the moment. ”

Beam (49.4750)

Suni Lee 9.9625 (NCAA Individual Champion)

Sophia Groth 9.9250

Gabby McLaughlin 9.9000

Aria Brusch 9.8500

Cassie Stevens 9.8375

Oliva Hollingsworth 9.8375

Floor (49.5750)

Derrian Gobourne 9.9625

Suni Lee 9.9500

Sophia Groth 9.900

Cassie Stevens 9000

Aria Brusch 9.8625

Drew Watson 9.6500

Vault (49.3500)

Drew Watson 9.925

Sara Hubbard 9.900

Derrian Gobourne 9.8750

Suni Lee 9.8500

Sophia Groth 9.8000

Cassie Stevens 9.7875

Bars (49.4375)

Derrian Gobourne 9.9500

Suni Lee 9.9125

Aria Brusch 9.8875

Cassie Stevens 9.8500

Sophia Groth 9.8375

Adeline Sabados 9.8000

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