CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The No. 14 Auburn gymnastics team opened the 2022 season with a 196.250 to win the North Carolina Tri-Meet, besting host North Carolina (195.700) and Bowling Green (192.600) Friday night in Carmichael Arena.
“It was an exciting meet,” head coach Jeff Graba said. “We were just happy to compete, and the goal was to be tough and finish. I thought this team handled it really well. We’re a powerful and aggressive team with depth. Some of our depth struggled tonight because they haven’t had the experience, but we learned that we could trust anybody that we put in.”
The score marked the second-highest season opening score in program history and the highest under Graba.
Fifth-year senior Drew Watson captured the vault title, earning a 9.95. That marked one of the highest scores in the event nationally on opening weekend.
“I was just focused on getting ready and warmed up,” Watson said. “It felt really good to hit that vault and it’s encouraging to know that this is just the starting point.
“I told the team at the end that this was the best first meet in my five years and it was just a great night for everyone,” Watson added. “This is a solid foundation for us and I think we all knew that we could do this and start the season strong.” With her help, Auburn closed out the meet with a 49.350 on vault as all six competitors scored a 9.8 or better.
“We saw the team really trust themselves on vault,” Graba said. “We definitely are only a couple steps away from how good we can be. To start like this with all the struggles we had shows how much this group battles. That is what it’s going to take as the season goes on. Like Drew (Watson) said, this is one of the best first meets we’ve had in a long time.”
In addition, senior Derrian Gobourne won a share of the floor title with a 9.875. She and freshman Sara Hubbard finished second on vault with a 9.875 and freshman Sunisa Lee earned second on beam with a 9.875.
Junior Cassie Stevens competed in the all-around and came away with a 39.125 for second place.
Auburn continues its road swing and will kick of Southeastern Conference competition at Arkansas, Jan. 14. The Tigers and the Razorbacks will face off at 7:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network in Fayetteville.
The Tigers kicked off the meet on bars, scoring a 48.825. Gobourne finished third in the event with a 9.825, while junior Aria Brusch finished with a 9.8. Lee put together a 9.775 and junior Adeline Sabados earned a 9.75 in the lead off. Stevens and Watson each added a 9.675 on the night.
Auburn moved on to beam and built on its score with a 49.150. The squad was led by Lee with a 9.875 to finish second in the event. Brusch’s 9.85 led things off and Stevens anchored the rotation with a 9.775. Sophomore Olivia Hollingsworth chipped in a 9.75 and junior Gabby McLaughlin closed out with a 9.7.
Auburn saw solid performances from a handful of Tigers to lead the team to a 48.925 on floor in rotation three. Gobourne anchored with a title-winning 9.875. Freshman Sophia Groth and Stevens added a pair of 9.85s. Brusch finished her busy night with a 9.75 and Hubbard and junior Morgan Leigh Oldham added 9.6s.
The fourth rotation was the highlight of the night for the Tigers as all six competitors earned a 9.8 or better to go 49.350. Watson captured the vault title with a 9.95 and was followed by Hubbard and Gobourne at 9.875. Groth and Stevens put together a 9.825 apiece, while sophomore Tara Walsh led off with a career-best 9.8.