Healthy Tigers Eager for NCAA Regional Meet

The Auburn gymnastics team will have home arena advantage as it looks to earn a spot at the NCAA Championships.

All-American Caitlin Atkinson (above) performs on the bars.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn gymnastics coach Jeff Graba said his team is ready to compete for a spot at the nationals with a full, healthy and rested lineup as the Tigers prepare for Saturday’s NCAA regional meet at their home facility.

Two of the six teams competing at the Auburn Regional will advance to the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships scheduled for April 17-19 at Fort Worth, Tex.

The Tigers are led by junior all-arounder Caitlin Atkinson, a first team All-American, and senior Megan Walker, a second team All-America selection on the balance beam.

Megan Walker performs on the balance beam.

Walker, who will be competing for the final time at Auburn, said she is looking forward to Saturday night and hopes a big crowd will be at Auburn Arena to support the Tigers. “Having our home fans will be wonderful,” the senior said.

Tickets to the NCAA regional at Auburn Arena are $8 for reserved seats and $5 for general admission. The competition begins at 6 p.m. CDT.

“We are about as healthy as we have been the whole year,” said Graba, whose team is ranked eighth nationally. “Caitlin mentioned us resting her to keep her ready for the postseason. We have done that with her and with M.J. (sophomore M.J. Rott), we have done it with Lexus (junior Lexus Demurs), we have done it with just about everybody.

“It’s actually turned out to work out for us,” Graba pointed out. “We do have everyone available to us at this point, which we haven’t had all year. The positive is we have everyone available, the negative is we have eight or nine really good girls on each event and the coaches have to decide about who’s going in.”

Asked when he will decide on who competes in each of the four events at the Auburn Regional that features top-seed and fifth-ranked Alabama, 17th-ranked Minnesota, Iowa, Maryland and George Washington, Graba said, “We have done a mock meet already. We did one last week and we did one Monday. We used different lineups both times and we’re just trying to see how people adjust.

“Sometimes it comes down to the score in the fifth and sixth rotation,” the coach pointed out. “Luckily, we finish on the floor, we don’t finish on a bye. We get to know what the score is from the other teams at the end of the meet. If you have to make a change we can do it.

“Kullen (sophomore Kullen Hlawek) is a perfect example,” Graba said. “She’s fifth in our floor lineup and has two routines. One is a safe routine and one is a go- for-broke routine. We can not only switch different people in, but also switch routines.”

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