LIVE BLOG: No. 5 Auburn at No. 2 Florida

Hello live from the O’Dome! Is it too early to call this one of the marquee meets of the season? Last year’s face-off was one for the history books, with both teams scoring a then-program record 198.575 (Florida bested that mark by two tenths a month later at regionals, coincidentally also at Auburn). Scores aside, it was an outstanding competition that encapsulated college gymnastics at its best: teams pushing each other from beginning to end, results coming down to the very last routine. 

Tonight’s meet has the potential to be just as dramatic, with some of the sport’s biggest names competing in front of a sold-out crowd. Auburn sophomore and Olympic gold medalist Sunisa Lee posted the best all-around score of Week 1, an unreal 39.750. Reigning NCAA champion Trinity Thomas, back with the Gators for a fifth year, didn’t compete on floor last week but was on pace for a 39.800. Both Lee and Thomas snagged a perfect 10 on beam and are currently tied for the top spot in the rankings. Is there any better way to break the tie? 

As far as the team competition goes, bear in mind that Auburn hasn’t beaten Florida outright in nearly 20 years (and it hasn’t beaten Florida at home since the early ’90s). The Tigers will need to press their advantage on vault if they hope to upset the Gators on their home turf.

You can watch along at home on ESPN2 and find live scores here

FYI, it’s Florida’s Equality Night!

Looks like Thomas and Wong in the AA for Florida and Hollingsworth, Lee, and Stevens for Auburn.

Rotation One: Florida vault, Auburn bars

Edwards (UF): Big block on her Y full, great body position in the air. Flaired out late and needed a hop back. 9.775

Sabados (Aub): A little bit of wild legs on her Tkatchev. Gorgeous bail, straight to a well-controlled handstand. DLO with a little leg sep and a hop. 9.800

Richards (UF): Y 1.5. Slight straddle on her preflight and soft knees in the air, but good distance and a small step back. 9.725

Hollingsworth (Aub): Toe hand to Maloney with a bit of leg sep. Not the tightest bail. Fabulous FTDT with a small foot shuffle which I’m willing to overlook because she pointed her toes throughout the dismount. 9.800

Wong (UF): Very nicely done RO half on pike half. Ever so slight leg sep in the air and a small hop back.9.850

Groth (Aub): Aggressive first handstand. Big Ray. A little form on her Pak, but works through the half pirouette. Very slow blind full finished just past vertical, but a gorgeous, stuck double tuck. 9.825

Thomas (UF): Y 1.5 Twisted a tad early onto the table, but so pretty in the air. Small hop forward. 9.925 is a little high.

Stevens (Aub): Nice, deliberate first handstand to a huge Ray. Overarched the handstand in her bail, but pulled it back. DLO not the clearest shape in the air, but a definitive STICK! 9.850

DiCello (UF): A bit underrotated on her Y 1.5, has to bend her knees significantly towards the end and take a step back. 9.900 is very high.

Gobourne (Aub): HIGH Tkatchev with minor foot form and a pretty perfect Pak. Falls out of her LB half pirouette. High FTDT landed very deep and has to take a hop forward. 9.875

Clark (UF): Interesting, Baumann was on the advanced lineups. Admittedly, I couldn’t see warm-ups, but she’s here and dressed so hopefully we’ll see her later in the meet. Very nice Y full with a slight pike-down and hop in place. 9.750

Lee (Aub): blind change to huge straddled Jaeger to Pak to Maloney to Gienger. NBD. Full pirouette to high double tuck with a small hop back which… OK. 9.900

AFTER ONE ROTATIONAuburn 49.250, Florida 49.200

We’re not seeing the stratospheric numbers from last season’s match-up (yet), but this is a tight race! This is exactly what I’d expect two top 5 teams to look like at this point–a few form blips and iffy landings–and I’m glad the scores are reflecting that for the most part. Thomas’s vault and Lee’s bars were the best of their respective lineups with Wong’s Podkopayeva not far behind.

Rotation Two: Auburn vault, Florida bars

Hollingsworth (Aub): Big Y full, lots of distance and a hop back. 9.725

Richards (UF): Some leg sep in her Maloney, but drilled the handstand in her bail (she missed that several times in warm-ups). DLO with a bit of leg sep absolutely stuck cold. 9.825

Groth (Aub): Didn’t get a huge block so had a bit of form and pike in her Y full, but stuck perfectly. 9.800 is high compared to Hollingsworth.

Blakely (UF): Glad to see her competing after last week’s fall! Agressive first handstand., nice Pretty Maloney, a little muscled on the Pak. Late blind half to double front with a bound forward.

Hubbard (Aub): Y 1.5 with significant knee and hip form, but good distance and just a small forward hop. 9.775

Nguyen (UF): Pretty Maloney, closed shoulders on the Pak and again has to muscle the glide kip out. Absolutely gorgeous DLO in the air with a little hop. 9.800

Stevens (Aub): Not a ton of height but huge distance on her Y 1.5, some leg form in the air and a minor hop forward. 9.850

DiCello (UF): Beautiful first handstand. Excellent Ray to a smooth Pak. Floaty VL and a FTDT with a bit of foot form but practically on the ceiling, stuck. 9.925

Lee (Aub): Tucked version of Wong’s vault, a RO half on tucked half off. Great block and just a miniscule foot adjustment. Better form in the preflight than last week. 9.900

Thomas (UF): Usual lovely Maloney to Pak, no leg sep that I saw. Even floatier VL than DiCello’s. Textbook DLO and another stick. Honestly, I wouldn’t be mad at a 10 for that. 9.975 and the crowd booed, lol.

Gobourne (Aub): Another great Y 1.5 from her, just some preflight leg sep and a small hop forward, but excellent in the air. 9.900

Wong (UF): Maloney and Pak, maybe a hair close on the Pak? Either way, it was very nice and very fluid. No problems on the VL. DLO virtually identical to Thomas’s right down to the definitive stick. And it’s a 10 for Wong.

AFTER TWO ROTATIONS: Florida 98.725, Auburn 98.475

There’s not much defense against a hot Florida bars lineup, but Auburn gave up some valuable tenths in execution. I’m sure when these teams meet up later in the season, that will not be the case! To no one’s surprise, the all-around race is a tight race with Thomas leading Lee and Wong.

Rotation Three: Florida beam, Auburn floor

Hurd (UF): Front aerial to bhs, lovely. Split jump to ring with a significant hip check. Overrotates the full turn, but covers nicely. RO double full that rose nicely and a teeny scoot back. Great lead-off routine from Hurd. 9.725

McLaughlin (Aub): Back 1.5 to front lay, a little bit flat but good landing. Switch full to wolf full, excellent position on both. Cheated the Gogean going in and coming out. Double pike with a deep landing, but it was a beauty in the air. 9.800

Blakely (UF): Front aerial to bhs, well-controlled. Switch leap to switch half, looked like some foot form and low front leg on the latter but my angle isn’t great. Slight, slight check on her full turn. Side gainer full with a hop. Loved the confidence in that routine! 9.875

Hollingsworth (Aub): HUGE FTDT, just unreal. Big amplitude on her switch full to Popa. front full through to double full, chest a bit down and lunges forward. 9.850

Lazzari (UF): Straddle mount. Bhs loso loso with a substantial hip check on the second loso. Perfect extension on her split jump series. Front aerial, no problem. Full turn, good. Bhs back 1.5, just underrotated and takes a little hop back. 9.850 is high for me with that hip check.

Brusch (Aub): Front tuck through to an overpowered double tuck with a leg up, but I *think* she kept it in? Switch half to Popa to wolf full, excellent position on all three. Held onto the double pike just a bit too long and had to step forward. 9.725

DiCello (UF): Nice control on her candle mount. Double wolf with a little forward shoulder lean. Switch leap to split jump, very well done. Bhs loso is rock solid. Front aerial with a hint of a hip check. Bhs side to a high gainer full, stuck. 9.925

Stevens (Aub): Front lay to Rudi. I thought she missed the rebound out of the lay, but she pulled some magic in the air and landed it perfectly. Switch full to wolf full looked just shy to me. Basically perfect double tuck with a deliberate slow lunge out. 9.900

Wong (UF): Switch split to split jump, just lovely. Absolutely floats the bhs loso, seemingly hung in the air. Elegant front aerial to beat jump. RO back double full, stuck. And it’s another 10 for Wong, wow.

Lee (Aub): Excellent DLO to open, no issues on the landing. Switch ring to switch full, perfect position and extension on both. Back 1.5 to front full, maybe a small shuffle on the landing? I couldn’t see, but it wouldn’t surprise me because Wong’s score came in mid-tumble. 9.850

Thomas (UF): Switch split mount, lovely. Full turn. One-armed bhs loso, mini front foot readjustment but otherwise excellent. Big hip check on her front aerial to two feet. Korbut, great. Side aerial to front 1.5 with a small hop forward. 9.825

Gobourne (Aub): Crowd’s cheering for Gobourne. Her usual HIGH no-hands double tuck, excellent control on the landing. I didn’t get a great view on her Popa to wolf full. Fabulous front lay to front full to front tuck, love the rise on all three skills. Another great double pike to finish, maybe a tiny front foot adjustment? 9.950

AFTER THREE ROTATIONS: Florida 148.200, Auburn 147.825

Florida has a sizeable, but certainly not insurmountable, lead at this point after an excellent beam rotation. Wong was truly a joy to watch, as was Gobourne. Some routines just hit different, and both of those just gave me chills.

The Tigers lacked a bit of polish on floor tonight, but that is going to be a lights out rotation later this season. I’m so impressed by McLaughlin! I’m used to her being so poised and collected on beam, but she’s a really fun, compelling performer on floor.

Rotation Four: Auburn beam, Florida floor 

Hollingsworth (Aub): Apologies, I couldn’t see the first bit of her routine! It was *not* the giant gator head, fwiw. Switch half, nicely done. Side aerial with a bit of a hip check. Side gainer full with a bit of leg sep and a hop. 9.825

Brubach (UF): HUGE front lay to Rudi, excellent form. Switch full was a touch low, but excellent Popa. Nice height on her double tuck, lacked a bit of control on the landing but stayed in bound. Impressive routine from the freshman. 9.825

Brusch (Aub): Love how she just GOES for the full turn. Front aerial to split jump, good extension. Bhs loso with a tiny shoulder check. Split jump to straddled quarter, good position on both. Stuck side gainer full. 9.875

Nguyen (UF): This balletic choreo suits her perfectly. Fhs double full with a bit of form, clear gap before the Sissone. Switch ring, lovely. Y turn, well done. High back 1.5 to front lay. And the graceful Gator chomp. 9.900 is high for me because of the form and broken connection on the first pas.

Stevens (Aub): Bhs loso with soft legs, but rock steady. Split jump to double stag, good position on both. Stevens that I thought was a botched front aerial before I remembered who was competing… RO back 1.5 with soft knees but a legitimate stick. 9.875

Richards (UF): WOO, that was a fabulous DLO! Nice amplitude and extension on her Popa series. Back 1.5 to front full with a small hop forward. Butt bounce to Gator chomp. Great routine from Richards. 9.925

Groth (Aub): Beautiful bhs loso bhs, teeny front foot adjustment. Switch leap to switch half with a leg-up check. Side aerial with some foot form to tucked gainer 1.5 with a little hop. 9.800

Wong (UF): Wong’s career high on FX is a 9.975, but she’s clearly on a hot streak… Good lord, piked double Arabian to stag, flawless. I don’t throw that word out. Again, hangs in the air on her leap series. Whip half to front full, beautiful and controlled. Screw it, give her another 10. I’ve got nothing. ONLY a 9.975, oh well.

McLaughlin (Aub): Slight hesitation between her switch split to bhs loso, so steady. Tiny readjustment on her full turn as the crowd boos Wong’s 9.975. Switch leap to switch side with a small shoulder hitch. Piked gainer with a little hop. I’d normally say that was high, but she was dealing with a LOT of noise, specifically noisy boos.

Thomas (UF): Another fabulous DLO. Looked like she travelled a bit in her leap series, but the extension was perfect so we’ll see what the judges do… Gorgeous front lay to front full. She’s truly something else. 10

Lee (Aub): Double wolf turn, no issues other than being a wolf turn. Switch leap to Sissone, excellent (and seemingly unbothered by Thomas’s 10). Switch leap to switch half, gorgeous. Leg up check on her bhs loso. Tucked gainer full with shoulders a big forward on the landing, textbook college stick. 9.875

Hurd (UF): Front lay to front full, well done, just a little form on the front lay. Switch ring to switch ring half, didn’t have a great view on the positions. No one can match Hurd’s ability to sell choreography and dramatic music. High double pike, couldn’t see the landing but it looked good based on her head position. In bounds if nothing else. 9.825

FINAL: Florida 197.825, Auburn 197.200

Well, dang! That was a legitimately excellent, postseason caliber floor rotation from the Gators. Let’s be clear: This was a strong showing from Auburn, but Florida just crushed those last two rotations. I saw Auburn compete around this time last season and they looked nowhere near this sharp. Expect good things from the Tigers in the coming weeks.

Gotta love Lee, Thomas, and DiCello taking post-meet selfies.

VT: Thomas, 9.925

UB: Wong, 10.000

BB: Wong, 10.000

FX: Thomas, 10.000

AA: Wong, 39.825

READ THIS NEXT: From Latvia to University Park, Elina Vihrova’s Road to Penn State Was Hard but Worth It

Live blog by Claire Billman 

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