College gymnastics: Auburn beats Alabama for first time in 37 years
AUBURN, Ala. -- The streak has been replaced by an Auburn celebration.
Auburn gymnastics beat Alabama 197.275 to 197.250 Friday night in Auburn Arena to snap the Tide's years-long winning streak, and did it in dramatic fashion when Caitlin Atkinson, the last gymnast of the night, scored a 9.925 on floor to push the Tigers ahead.
A capacity crowd of 7,424 saw history.
Auburn had not beaten Alabama since 1979, though the Tigers had been close the last few years. Alabama led after three rotations Friday as well. Auburn was on floor for the final go, and Atkinson, who won the all-around, came through by playing it cool.
"I didn't know the score I needed. I still don't know the score I even got," he said. "I knew it was within a tenth or close around there. I just trusted myself when it was my turn to go."
Atkinson did what she had done before when she scored a 9.900 on vault, a 9.900 on bars and a 9.925 on beam. Her 9.925 floor was what Auburn needed.
"It means everything. It's my last dual meet against Bama, and when you come into a rivalry like this, your goal is to always come out on top," Atkinson said. "And to finally do that as a senior, and in my last dual meet against Alabama, it means everything. And I think it means a lot for the team. They trust me and believe in me, and that allows me to trust in myself in the anchor spot. A lot of trust from teammate to teammate is a really big key, and we have that. It's spectacular to be able to do this. Our team will feed off of this."
Auburn coach Jeff Graba said the pressure was to win for the fans who have supported his team. He also gave a nod to ending Alabama's streak.
"This is about as big an accomplishment as Auburn can take on," he said. "For our girls to overcome this -- it's a pretty young team -- we've been through a lot of adversity. I don't know another team in the country that could handle what we handled the last six weeks."
Graba said it was pleased that both Auburn and Alabama scored well. Auburn scored a season high and had seven individual bests.
"When we're No. 8 and they're No. 4 it's going to be close. I don't want it not to be close because it usually means somebody is messing up," Graba said. "I don't want to beat another team like that on a down night. I want to beat them toe to toe, and I felt like we did that tonight.
"I think it's important for me to point out the pressure the girls have been feeling because of our fans. Our fans keep showing up in bigger and bigger numbers. I really think this is for the Auburn family and for our fans. What we want to do is look up there and be able to give them what they've given us. This is really special to us, and it's something we really wanted to share with them.
"It's a lot of fun on that end, but for me, it's also a validation of this program and making it into a Top 5 program on a consistent basis, and not just a fluke."
Auburn set the tone early in the vault, leading after the first rotation 49.275 to Alabama's 49.225 on bars. Caitlin Atkinson's 9.900 led the way for the Tigers. She went on to win the all-around.
Alabama came back to take the lead after the second rotation with a strong performance on vault while Auburn was on bars. Atkinson and Abby Milliet each scored a 9.90 for the Tigers.
Auburn came back and scored a season high on the beam, with Atkinson scoring a team-best 9.925. She wrapped up the win in a dramatic fashion on the floor.
Graba reminded all there's competition still ahead.
"Our philosophy is post-season philosophy," he said. "This is a feather in their cap and they own this the rest of their life. But let's not get carried away short term. Let's be focused on what we're going to do in the future. We've still got a lot of work ahead of us."