A week after clinching the program's fourth national championship with an 8-7 win over TCU, Auburn's equestrian team took to Toomer's Corner on Tuesday to celebrate in the most Auburn fashion possible — with a plethora of toilet paper and smiles.
For coach Greg Williams, who has led the program since its first season in 1996, celebrating at Toomer's Corner was even more significant because of what happened four years prior. On April 20, 2013, his program captured its third national title. Three days later, the famous oak trees at Toomer's Corner were removed.
Four years later, the freshmen on that national championship team became championship-winning seniors, and the tree-rolling in honor of the program's accomplishments could finally commence.
"I have been dreaming of today since we walked out here in 2013. It's just such an unbelievable feeling," Williams said.
Williams always knew he had a good team, but it was clear to him from an early point in the season that his team could potentially win it all.
"I knew this was a special team early on," Williams said. "We had recruited hard, we worked our plan, we thought it was going to be well, but there was a special chemistry that was happening."
For Auburn's 11 seniors, the ride might be over, but it couldn't have possibly ended on a higher note.
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"It's bittersweet, knowing it's the end," said senior Griffin Knight. "But honestly, coming from a team our freshman year that was a national championship team and being able to give these [freshman] girls the same thing that we had is so amazing, and they deserve it."
Fellow senior Elizabeth Benson echoed Knight's sentiments.
"When we came in as freshmen, we had a really great group of senior girls leading us, and this year we tried to duplicate that for the girls who came in," Benson said. "For them to really buy in and want to win is super, and it's great that it worked out that way."
It's fitting for Auburn that the national championship was clinched by a senior. Going the final event, Reining, Auburn held a 7-5 lead. After the Tigers and Horned Frogs split the first two matches, Hailey Munger tied TCU's Brooke Boyle, 142-142, to clinch the title.
"I just happened to go in the second session and be second-to-last, it was tied up, and I felt really great with that horse," Munger said. "I had a lot of pressure, but I knew my teammates were behind me, and I just wanted to bring it home for them. It was incredible."
Munger's jubilation was immediately infectious with her teammates.
"It was incredible," Knight said. "I can't describe it. Hailey's amazing and not one of us had a doubt. I was there when she got off of her horse and you could tell how happy she was, not only for herself, but for the group. We had just done something we had worked all year for."
As Munger rode Auburn to a national championship, all of her teammates were glued to the action and cheering her on. All of them except one, that is.
"To be honest, I'm very superstitious," Benson said with a chuckle. "My freshman year, I didn't watch any of the reigning events, so this year, I did the same. I had my face against the wall. I was making sure that I wasn't looking at the arena at all. I heard the girls screaming and hollering, so I knew that it worked out our way."
The Tigers' championship celebration drew a crowd of orange-and-blue-clad supporters. Laughs were shared, rolls of toilet paper were tossed and, for Williams and his players, memories were made.
"It's the most unbelievable feeling, people turning out," Williams said. "These girls are so special, they've poured their hearts into Auburn. When you see Auburn people coming out and doing something like this, it's just incredible. It means the world to me that they'd come out for us."
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