ELITE EIGHT! Auburn gymnastics advances to NCAA Championship

Final Results
Matthew Shannon/AU Athletics

AUBURN, Ala. – Rocketing from fourth place to second on the strength of a huge beam score that included Sunisa Lee's fifth 10.0 of the season, Auburn scored 197.775 at the NCAA Regional final Saturday at Neville Arena to advance to the Elite Eight.
"I'm really proud of the team," Auburn coach Jeff Graba said. "The mentally and physically toughest team makes it through. We started out in a hole, but they became themselves going to beam and never looked back."
Auburn will compete at the NCAA Championship April 14-16 in Fort Worth, Texas. Florida won the regional with a masterful 198.775 while the Tigers earned their trip to nationals by outscoring Kentucky's 197.500 and Denver's 197.225.
Competing in the postseason for the first time in three years after consecutive pandemic pauses, senior Derrian Gobourne scored 9.9 on bars in Auburn's first rotation with teammates Adeline Sabados, Cassie Stevens and Aria Brusch each scoring 9.85s.
"I came in knowing we were going to make it," Gobourne said. "That was my mindset. I think that was everyone's mindset as well. It's not going to be one of us, it's not going to be two of us. We all put in the work and we're all going to reap the benefits."
The Tigers' 49.2 trailed Kentucky by .175 after the first rotation.
Auburn erased the deficit on beam thanks to steadily increasing scores that included Brusch's 9.875, 9.9s from Stevens and Gabby McLaughlin and a stunning 9.95 from freshman Sophia Groth.
"Our freshmen are unbelievable," Graba said. "Sophia is phenomenal and I think one of the best athletes in the country."
That set the stage for fellow freshman Lee, who delighted the crowd by earning her fifth perfect score of the season. In a matter of minutes, Auburn's 49.625 helped the Tigers overtake the Wildcats and Pioneers with two rotations remaining.
"That's amazing that she's able to week after week after week constantly show up and show out," fifth-year gymnast Drew Watson said of the Olympic all-around gold medalist. "It's really impressive."
Auburn extended its lead on floor by scoring 49.5, highlighted by Brusch's 9.85, Groth's 9.9 and Lee's 9.95.
In her final home floor routine, Gobourne dazzled once more, earning 10.0s from two of the four judges and scoring 9.975 to bring the crowd to its feet.
"It was really special," Gobourne said. "It's so cool competing in Neville Arena, the energy puts a smile on my face. I'll definitely miss it but I'm ready for nationals and I'm ready to show them who I am."
Leading Kentucky by .400 heading to the final rotation, Auburn wrapped up its trip to Texas with 9.85s on vault from Gobourne and Sara Hubbard, Lee's 9.875 and a 9.9 from Stevens.
Watson, in her last home routine, tied the program record with a 9.975 in the fifth spot, essentially cinching Auburn's Elite Eight appearance.
"I felt it from warmups," Watson said. "I was hungry. I circled everyone up and said, 'Let's just finish this thing off. We have nothing to lose.' It was a fight. We fought from the very beginning."
Auburn capitalized on its home-arena advantage, with fans chanting "Let's go, Auburn" before the meet and "It's great to be an Auburn Tiger" when the final scores flashed to secure the Tigers' ticket to the Elite Eight.
"I was proud of our fans for showing up. We needed them tonight," Graba said. "All the coaches who came up to me said this was the best environment they've ever had at a regional meet. Hats off to our fans. They helped us and we're going to keep needing them from afar."
Auburn will compete in the evening session at the Elite Eight on April 14 at Dickies Arena against Florida, Michigan and Missouri, with the top two teams advancing to the Final Four two days later.