LIVE BLOG: No. 9 Alabama at No. 8 Auburn

An in-state rivalry that also sees rankings neighbors go head to head?! Yes, please!

The Crimson Tide are coming off of its first 197 of the year, a massive 197.650, last week, while Auburn has two back-to-back scores over 197. Alabama is walking into what is likely to be a sellout crowd again at Auburn Arena since the addition of Suni Lee to the roster has given attendance a boost. Expect a championship atmosphere for this one.

We’ve heard that Lee might be ready for the all-around this week, which would be a boost for the Tigers who have only put up Cassie Stevens on all four so far. Freshman Sophia Groth is one to watch; the rookie has been spectacular, especially on beam. For the Tide, freshman Lilly Hudson has broken out as a top all-arounder and will battle for that title here. Alabama will be looking for a road 197 as we inch ever closer to the switch to NQS calculations.

Damnnn okay we see you Auburn fans.

We’re just finishing up with URI at Dayton basketball here on ESPN2. I have Rhode Island connections, so I’m a little invested in this random game, but it is not looking amazing for the away team. A Rams steal! They’re down by two with 19.5 seconds left. It seems like we’re not hopping over to gym, but watching through the end of this one.

Look, I love basketball. It’s a fun, fast sport. But the end of these games is…phew. Lots of intentional fouling and timeouts, generally tons of clock stoppage. We might be in Dayton another few minutes. Gonna blog it because, well, that’s what we do here.

Dayton’s freshman Smith hits two free throws to make it a four point game. URI across center, easy bucket for the Rams. URI’s Mitchell commits a foul, so we’ll get two more shots for Dayton. Both good, that’ll be game for the Flyers.

URI makes a layup, but there’s not time left. Ballgame, 53-51 Dayton win. Now let’s head to gymnastics, please. WHOOO there are our shirtless Auburn fans. Alright here we go, Iron Bowl time.

Kathy is telling us the crowd is “raucus” and honestly, it’s packed in there.

Rotation 1: Auburn VT, Alabama UB

Stevens (Aub): Yfull, some pike, up on her toes and a full arm swing on the landing. 9.775

Hudson (UA): Toe hand to Maloney, let sep and messy on the back swing, short bail hand. Blind full touch late double tuck, some arm movement but held her feet. 9.775, oh, tied after the first two, that’s how it’ll be here tonight.

Groth (Aub): Yfull, some pike, but less so. Small hop. 9.85

Waligora (UA): Blind to Jaeger immediate bail, little close there. Excellent last handstand. FTDLO, small hop forward. 9.8

Lee (Aub): Yfull, really open, good. Hop back. Kathy telling us she’ll upgrade later in the year. 9.857

Adams (UA): Maloney, lovely, good pak just a little close. Toe full late, double tuck, over done a little and a step back. 9.775, maybe hit her on the pak catch.

Hubbard (Aub): Y1.5, soft knees and a hop. 9.8

Jess Graba is in the crowd, next to Matt James, huge cheers.

Machado (UA): Maloney some leg sep, Pak, again some leg sep. Toe hand to lovely floaty van Leeuwen. Toe full late to double tuck hop forward. 9.85

Watson (Aub): Y1.5, great chest up landing, small hop. 9.825

Blanco (UA): Maloney to pak, lovely and clean on both. FTDB, true stick. Wow! Ha, she blew a kiss to the Auburn crowd. We love a rivalry meet. 9.925

Gobourne (Aub): HUGE cheers for her, love that. Y1.5, good in the air, she went for the stick and took a few stutter steps back. 9.825

Doggette (UA): Tkatchev immediate pak, catches low and hits her knees. Short last handstand. DLO stuck. Ahh, on replay you can see that one hand missed the bar. How did she not come fully off the bar?! That will always impress me. 9.425

AFTER 1: Auburn 49.175, Alabama 49.125

Phew we are rocking! Both teams traded mistakes and will have hoped for higher totals after one, but this one is close. Auburn just went too hard for sticks and under cut some of those vaults. Auburn was sailing along until the Doggette mistake, but there’s plenty of time for her to recover.

Rotation 2: Auburn UB, Alabama VT

Ooo six 10.0 starts for Alabama tonight, per Sam P!

Olsen (UA): DTY, some leg sep and a low chest, sticks, just pulls her heels together. 9.9

Watson (Aub): Ray, doesn’t really turn it over. Toe hand short to bail hand, short and leg sep. Great last handstand. FTDB, hop back. 9.75

Waligora (UA): Y1.5, low and just a small step back. 9.825

Stevens (Aub): Toe hand to Ray, good, just some foot form. Bail hand best one so far tonight. Quite short last handstand. DLO, really whips it down, foot shuffle. 9.825

Quinn (UA): Y1.5, big hop to the side. 9.75

Pi. Smith (Aub): Toe hand Maloney, leg sep, good Pak. DLO, pike it in a bit, hop. 9.825

Graber (UA): Y1.5, great distance, but a little too much, very deep landing and has to take two big steps back. 9.725, correct, that was a 9.925 in the air for sure.

Brusch (Aub): Toe hand to Maloney, leg sep on the back swing, leg sep on bail hand. DLO, huge, hop back. 9.85

Doggette (UA): Y1.5, good in the air, step back. 9.825

Gobourne (Aub): Big Tkatchev to pak, some leg sep. FTDB some foot form, true stick. 9.925

Blanco (UA): Y1.5, really slung it out, underrotates it and a few steps back to a sit. 9.275

Lee (Aub): Everyone in the crowd has a phone out. You record the AA champ when you get the chance. PATIENCE in her handstands. Maloney, Pak, van Leeuwen combo is lovely. GREAT handstand. FTDB just a hop. 9.925

AFTER 2: Auburn 98.525, Alabama 98.150

All of those 10.0s for Alabama was high risk high reward, and today the landings fell short. Auburn was able to capitalize on those mistakes, finishing with a really spectacular back to back in Gobourne and Lee. This one definitely feels like it’ll continue to be back and forth; Auburn has the momentum to be sure, but Alabama isn’t out of it yet.

Rotation 3: Auburn BB, Alabama FX

Suni is snacking on pickles in the beam huddle and it’s great.

Hollingsworth (Aub): Bhs loso, totally solid. Switch to switch half, misses the 180 and has some soft knees. Split transverse half. Side aerial 1/1, piked a bit, stuck. 9.75

Machado (UA): Double pike, slides the front foot a smidge in the lunge. RO 1.5 to front, covered being back on her heels a touch with a controlled step. 3/1 wolf is as good as that can look. Switch to switch half, clean. Double tuck, good landing, hoped right into the lunge. 9.825, hmm.

Brusch (Aub): Little off balance on her full turn, but she covered it well. Front aerial, dropped a shoulder a touch, split jump over corrected and over to the other side a touch. Bhs loso, another micro adjustment, these are all .05 max. Leaps clean, maybe a touch low back leg. Gainer 1/1 small foot shuffle. She FOUGHT in that one, that was impressive. 9.75

Olsen (UA): Pike full in, little off the diagonal and steps OOB. Switch to Tour jete full split full, might’ve been a hair short on the tour jete, but the split positions were good. 2/1 turn. Front through double back, flexed feet. 9.675

Stevens (Aub): Bhs loso, flexed her foot a bit but very secure. Split to double stag to beat, not fully into the stag position, legs were just imprecise. Front toss to one knee, into her wolf, cleanly through that combo. RO 3/2, true stick, just pulled her heels in. 9.875, likely hit on those jumps.

Waligora (UA): L turn 1/1 was nice. Front lay to front 2/1, soft knees and some arch down in the lay. Tour jete 1/2 wolf 1/1, little low of horizontal on those front legs. Side aerial. RO 3/2, front lay, arched in down again. 9.825

Groth (Aub): She has SUCH a presence on the beam. Bhs loso bhs, lovely. little wobble on choreo, swings her arm twice. Switch to Switch half, clean, actually hits the split in the half, a rarity. Front aerial, nailed, a little head nod and smirk. What confidence for a freshman! Stuck side aerial 1/1. Just that chroeo bobble! 9.825, one tenth on each arm swing from one judge, is my guess.

Hudson (UA): Back to back stellar freshmen! Front lay to front 2/1, nailed. Very clean twisting. Cleanly through her leaps. 5/2, stuck it cold, no lunge out, just pulled her feet together. Her twisting is elegant in a rare way. Double tuck, low chest but solid lunge. 9.9

McLaughlin (Aub): Swtich to bhs loso, clean, huge grin in the lunge. Beat to side aerial. She’s very patient and precise. Switch to straddle 1/4, tidy. Gainer pike, stuck! Little low amplitude-wise, but that was lovely. 9.925

Blanco (UA): The gymnasties are having a TIME with her on the floor choreo opening. Double pike, slid her front foot. Her usual, signature lovely leaps. Double tuck, lifted those front toes but it was subtle. FHS front 1/1 front lay, arched the lay. and took a pretty uncontrolled step forward into the arabesque. 9.85

Lee (Aub): Apparently the pickles are for cramping! Clean wolf 1/1. Front aerial bhs , soft knees in the aerial. Switch to switch half, soft knees again, tiny check. Bhs gainer 1/1 college stick. 9.975, she is THRILLED. Little goofy, I’d go more 9.9-9.925, but I’m not in the bananas loud arena, so.

Graber (UA): Unfazed by the screaming. Huge full-in, little forward in her chest on the lunge. Switch side to wolf 3/2, one of the only rotating wolfs I don’t dislike, good positions. Front through double pike, strong landing. 9.925, that feels right.

AFTER 3: Auburn 147.975, Alabama 147.475

Auburn expanded its lead on the heels of what was a great beam rotation. The underclassmen are just spectacular there, in both gymnastics and presence. They’re a mature and composed group, and just a pleasure to watch. Alabama has some really big, really lovely tumbling and some of the best leap series in the game; it was just some little landing issues that held the Tide back. It will take a lights-out beam rotation to have any hope of taking this one.

I just learned who Matt James is, I do in fact live under a gymnastics sized rock. He seems to be having a blast, which makes me instantly respect him. He is everyone who has ever watched a beam routine sweating.

Rotation 4: Auburn FX, Alabama BB

Burgess (UA): I don’t envy her starting a beam set in this loud as all get out arena. She’s a pro, though and seems to be living on it. One arm bhs loso, grinning before she even lands, great. Cat to switch side, little bit dumpy on the cat, just didn’t give it much oompf. Switch to beat, her smile is contagious. She owns this arena. Side aerial 1/1, small hop. 9.9, earned.

Stevens (Aub): Front lay to rudi, piked in in a bit, but good landing. Low back leg on her leaps, fell out of the wolf 1/1 just a touch. Double tuck, deduction-free landing. 9.875

Doggette (UA): Touch overrotated on her full turn but covered it so well. Bhs loso, big leg up and chest down check, but she stays on, a great save. Beat to switch half, clean. Split to back tuck swingdown, little shy on the split. RO 3/2, big step. 9.7, Alabama will want to drop that.

Brusch (Aub): Front through double tuck, good landing and great height. Switch half popa wolf 1/1, just SO HIGH, dropped each landing right in. Double pike, very good. Wow! 9.875

Graber (UA): No sign of nerves on her face. Bhs layout to two feet, little off line but she adjusted well and it’ll be a tiny deduction if anything. Switch to straddle 3/4 is good, nice splits. Cat to pike front toss, another micro adjustment. Gainer 1/1 stuck. 9.925

Groth (UA): FHS 2/1, big step into her lunge, but well-covered. Nice leaps. RO 3/2 front lay stuck COLD, maybe could’ve used more amplitude on the lay but you can’t argue with that landing. FHS rudi, another good landing. She’s really a star. 9.9

Waligora (UA): Bhs loso, bent arms in her bhs. Adjustment on her side aerial. Split to tuck 1/1, slightly soft knees on her split. RO 3/2, stuck cold. 9.925, Alabama is doing exactly what it needs to here.

Watson (Aub): Arabian double, stuck! I mean, she was a bit off balance, but held the stick for a moment and danced out. We’ll see what the judges think. RO 3/2 front lay, good. Switch side popa, short on the popa rotation by a good bit, maybe quarter twist. Double tuck, some foot movement in the lunge. 9.9 mhm they gave her that stick.

Hudson (UA): Front aerial bhs loso, wow, solid. Wobble on full turn, that’s just nerves. Swtich to beat, no problems there. Solid side aerial. RO 3/2 stuck, really just that dang full turn. 9.925 ANOTHER ONE!

Lee (Aub): Fam it’s LOUD in Auburn Arena. DLO, great landing, just some leg sep in the air. Clean switch ring to split 1/1. She has this place rocking. RO 3/2 front 1/1, baaaarely stays in on the arabesque. We’ll see what mood the judges are in. It’s probably not the 10-iest 10 but it wouldn’t shock me if they throw it. 9.925, we’re staying in the realm of reason, happy day.

Blando (UA): Bhs loso, small front foot adjustment, gorgeous in the air. Switch to switch half, little tight in the half. RO 2/1 true stick. Wow, Alabama beam is not to be messed with this year. 9.975, that is not unreasonable.

Gobourne (Aub): Oh she has fire behind her eyes, this is going to be BIG. HUGE open double back, so clean and high, great landing. Switch side wolf 1/1, over exaggerates the landing right into choreo. She is on, big time. FHS front 1/1 front lay, dances right out. Double pike, good landing if a touch off balance but she dances it out. Wow, what a spectacular routine. 9.95, you know what, I thought they might go there. Alas, we’ll wait another week.

FINAL: Auburn 197.525, Alabama 197.125

The Tide will be disappointed but they should not dwell on it; that beam rotation was impeccable, one of the top three in the country if I’m the one ranking. The difference here was those hoppy vault landings, Alabama just couldn’t come back from that. At least, not when Suni Lee was putting up a 39.700 all around debut.

Event Winners:

AA: Lee 39.700
VT: Olsen 9.900
UB: Blanco, Gobourne, Lee 9.925
BB: Lee, Blanco 9.975
FX: Gobourne 9.950

Live blog by Emily Minehart

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