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AUBURN — When one star gymnast falls, another is there to pick her up with show-stopping teamwork.
Senior Derrian Gobourne delivered a career-high-matching floor routine score of 9.975 — meaning one judge gave her a perfect 10 — and Auburn gymnastics treated a sellout crowd of 9,121 to a comfortable win in the Tigers' home opener Friday night.
"I told (Gobourne) afterward, she just has to keep doing that," coach Jeff Graba said wryly. "That's her. She's loose. She's fun. She's absorbing the energy and putting on a great performance. At some point, that thing's going to go 10 with both judges. She's just been bouncing back and forth between the judges these last few times she's done a routine like that."
Auburn (3-0, 1-0 SEC) finished with the second-highest team score in program history, a 197.35 to Iowa State's 195.575. Even when freshman Suni Lee fell off the balance beam, her team had her covered, scoring its season high in the event. And Gobourne's electrifying anchor routine on floor put the Tigers over the top, cementing the milestone.
It was accomplished in front of the largest home attendance in program history — students flocked in from their tents outside Auburn Arena and returned to them after the meet, beginning the countdown for Saturday's men's basketball game against Kentucky.
"Just starting, everyone was just screaming so loud," Gobourne said. "I definitely needed that, because it's hard to do floor last. Especially when you're the last person up. I really just missed it so much. I really needed that extra energy."
"Not having a fanbase is not good for Derrian," Graba said, laughing.
Making her competitive debut at Auburn Arena, Lee tied Gobourne for the meet's highest score on uneven bars, a 9.9. The Olympic gold medalist has anchored on beam and bars in the last two meets. After the fall on beam Friday, she got back on and finished the routine to earn applause from the supportive home crowd. Graba isn't concerned: The deal in place was that Lee would get to upgrade to her more difficult beam series if Auburn's other five gymnasts hit their routines.
They did. A win was secured. A high team score on the third rotation was secured. Perfect time to experiment.
"The beam routine that she's throwing, the series that she's throwing is the hardest series in the NCAA," Graba said. "Nobody's doing it. Nobody's doing anything close to it. She messed it up in warmups, and the deal was: 'I'd like to get more practice, and we just don't have enough days.' ... Now is she upset? Absolutely. She probably didn't want me to talk to her at that moment."
The Tigers were able to drop her 9.425 and keep the season-high beam score, making it a productive experience for her early in the season.
Auburn scored a 49.25 on vault, beating its score from last week at Arkansas but falling short of its season-opening mark at North Carolina; a 49.375 on uneven bars; and a 49.35 on floor to end the night.
Junior Aria Brusch matched career-high scores on beam (9.875) and floor (9.9).
"The score comes as the score comes," she said. "That's not what I'm really worried about. I'm more worried about my performance. So getting to see myself get those (records) is really awesome."
The Tigers have improved on their team scores all three weeks so far, setting up an Iron Bowl of gymnastics next Friday (8 p.m., SEC Network) in which Graba expects the Auburn Arena crowd to be "this times three or four, that's for sure."
The new increased capacity setup will continue. It worked to perfect Friday night.
"People kept coming in," Graba said. "It was a lot of fun. A lot of young people haven't seen a crowd like that."
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Suni Lee, Auburn gymnastics top Iowa State in home opener