AUBURN, Ala. — For just the second time since 1980, Alabama gymnastics lost to Auburn, with a final score of 196.625 to 196.025 in Auburn Arena on Friday night.
“It took us, what, 40 years to get to our second win,” Auburn coach Jeff Graba said. “I mean it’s been a long time since Jimmy Carter was president.”
Alabama held a slim lead after the first three rotations, but two falls off the balance beam in the last rotation doomed the Crimson Tide.
Heading into the final rotation, Alabama led Auburn by 0.100 point.
Sophomore Shallon Olsen got off to a good start on the balance beam for Alabama with a 9.800. In the second spot, though, freshman Ella Burgess, competing in her first collegiate meet, fell twice.
The fall was followed by three solid Alabama routines, but then junior Lexi Graber fell off the beam in the anchor spot. Graber was the 2019 SEC individual champion on beam.
Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said the fall is very uncharacteristic for Graber.
“She hardly ever falls off the beam, and she really turned that ankle and hit it,” Duckworth said. “I saw her pull it up really fast, so I was worried she was hurt worse… I know she’s gonna beat herself up because she’s a competitor, and she wanted this. We all wanted this.”
Duckworth said she would like to see more aggressiveness on bars and improvement on lead passes on the floor exercise.
Even though the overall result was negative, there were some bright spots for the Crimson Tide.
Graber and senior Maddie Desch both scored 9.900 on floor. Freshman Luisa Blanco scored a team-high 9.900 on beam, and senior Shea Mahoney and freshman Makarri Doggette both scored a 9.875 on bars.
Duckworth was pleased with the leadoff position in all four rotations and the experience that the three freshmen gained.
Sophomore Griffin James was also able to make her debut after dealing with injuries last season. She scored a 9.825 on floor.
The theme for this team is “thorns and transformation,” dealing with how they respond to adversity.
Alabama will have to respond quickly because the road doesn’t get any easier. Alabama hosts the defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners in Coleman Coliseum on Friday, Jan. 17.
“Overall, I think that we have a baseline,” Duckworth said. “It’s a much better baseline than last year, and we have to continue to build on that.”