AUBURN, Ala. — No. 7 Auburn scored its all-time highest team total to defeat No. 9 Georgia 197.750-196.775 in front of a sellout crowd in Auburn Arena Friday. Caitlin Atkinson posted the best all-around score in program history with a 39.675.
“I had a really good feeling all week about this meet,” head coach Jeff Graba said. “I just had a lot of confidence in this team coming into this, that we were going to be settled down, and we’re going to be able to show off.
Our girls are really good in front of a large crowd, and we had a huge crowd here tonight. The fans came out and were the sixth man tonight. It was fantastic.”
Atkinson earned the event title on floor with a career-high 9.975 and scored 9.900 on vault, bars and beam to score an Auburn record 39.675 all-around total. The floor and all-around event titles gave Atkinson, a junior, 41 event titles in her career.
“After taking a few weeks off, I kind of didn’t want to, but I think it really helped me a lot,” Atkinson said. “It helped me rest my body and be able to come out and do the routines I’d been training, fix all the corrections and just put on a show. It was a lot of fun to be back on floor, not only to be back but to have my highest score ever and get thrown a 10 is pretty exciting because it’s always been a goal of mine.”
MJ Rott tied her own Auburn all-time record vault score of 9.975, earning her the event title. Rott had previously scored 9.975 at LSU in 2014. The Tigers had a team total 49.375 on the event.
“Throughout the week, I have been training and the training has been going really well,” Rott said. “I just told myself to trust my training, trust my coaching and trust myself especially. I just went out, and everything fit together and everything felt great.”
On bars, Auburn scored a 49.450 led by freshman Abby Milliet’s 9.925. The score was a career-high and good enough for her first career event title. Lexus Demers led Auburn on beam with a 9.900 to give the Tigers a team total of 49.375, the second-highest total on the year. The Tigers scored the second-highest floor total in program history with a 49.550. Atkinson led the meet with her 9.975 and Rott scored a career-high 9.950.
“At the beginning of the year, we were struggling a bit with our consistency and we’re finally now where we’re so predictable all the way through seven and eight,” Graba said. “I’m finally calm about floor so I knew what floor was going to do no matter who we plugged in, so I’m excited. I mean, you shoot all year to be predictable at this time of year, and we’re becoming predictable.”
Junior Kait Kluz had a strong night for the Tigers scoring a career-high 9.900 on floor, a 9.900 on bars and a 9.850 on vault.
“We’re not where we are without Kait Kluz,” Graba said. “She’s a rock on three events for us. She’s a backup on beam, and she’s been unbelievable. She’s possibly one of the most improved people from last year, and she was a huge asset to us last year. It’s just phenomenal. All our girls have been able to do something; you don’t throw up a 197 without everybody being on the same page.”
The 7,424 in attendance was the highest in program history, and the first gymnastics sellout in Auburn Arena.
“It is the last SEC meet that I get at home,” Walker said. “We try not to think of lasts, but it is important to notice that and I feel like the fans did a great job of making sure my last one was a great one and I can say that for all the seniors. We were all just beaming, and we were on the verge of tears. Gymnastics is one of those things you have to build every single year, and I feel like we are finally showing everybody that we are here. This is Auburn gymnastics, and you should be excited about it.”
Auburn last defeated Georgia in 2010. Tonight’s victory is only the second since 1977 and the fourth all time.
“I really felt the sellout was possible, and I told the girls in the locker room before we came out, this is what they’ve been shooting for their whole career here,” Graba said. “I’m not sugarcoating it and trying to make it sound nice – it’s important to us recruiting wise, it’s important to us with a home field advantage. It’s more important to those girls that the people are showing up. Just look what it does for our team. Look at the energy level of our team when we’re packed like this. It’s a huge advantage.”