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Auburn gymnastics travels across the state to take on Alabama

<p>Fans cheer at Auburn gymnastics meet against NC State in Neville Arena on January 27, 2023.&nbsp;</p>

Fans cheer at Auburn gymnastics meet against NC State in Neville Arena on January 27, 2023. 

Auburn gymnastics will look to extend its win streak to three as it travels to Tuscaloosa, Ala. this Friday to face Alabama.

"Going to Alabama is never an easy task," said head coach Jeff Graba. "We need to get better at competing on the road in a hostile environment so no better way to do that than this Friday.”

The rivalry between the Tigers and Crimson Tide has heightened in recent years, with both teams becoming powerhouse schools in gymnastics. Auburn went 1-2 against Alabama in the 2022 season, winning at home in the regular season and losing twice in the postseason to the Tide.

"This is a special thing we get to be a part of," Graba said. "I think it's become one of the best rivalries in collegiate gymnastics. They're going to have a big crowd and it's going to be a big night for both programs."

Auburn has never won on the road at Alabama, holding an 0-9 record in the opposing gym and winning just two of the last 10 matchups between the two teams. Regardless of the final result, road scores are weighed more heavily in determining postseason standings because of the difficulty associated with being in an unfamiliar atmosphere.

No. 6 Auburn (3-3, 1-1 SEC) are coming off strong performances against No. 18 Arkansas and No. 23 N.C. State. Senior Cassie Stevens shined against the Wolfpack, winning the vault title with a 9.925 and securing the all-around title with a season-best total of 39.6. 

No. 11 Alabama (2-2, 1-1 SEC) fell in its last two meets against No. 10 Kentucky and No. 2 Florida. The Tide lost to the Wildcats despite scoring a season-best 197.375 team total and senior Makarri Doggette scoring a perfect 10 on uneven bars.

Alabama is led by Doggette, who is the ninth ranked gymnast in the SEC and the 20th ranked gymnast nationally. The Tide average a 196.831 team score per meet, including being the 10th ranked team nationally on beam.

The Tigers boast the second and 19th nationally ranked gymnast, Sunisa Lee and Cassie Stevens. Auburn averages a 197.306 team score per meet, including ranking fifth nationally in vault and floor.

Lee took a rest from the all-around against the Wolfpack, something Graba hopes to do with each gymnast competing in the all-around to provide them adequate rest amidst a physically exhausting season. The Tigers did include her in a list of potential lineups, so it is likely she returns to compete for the all-around against the Tide.

"If our team is having fun, we're really hard to beat," Graba said. "And that is the trick on the road. How do you have fun when everyone wants you to fail? The competition we've faced so far to this point has prepared us for this Friday."

Auburn and Alabama will face off Friday in Coleman Coliseum. The meet begins at 6:30 CST on the SEC Network.

Donavan Weaver | Sports Writer

Donavan Weaver is a senior at Auburn, majoring in journalism. He is from Brewton, Ala. and started with The Plainsman in fall 2022.

Twitter: @donavanweaver21

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