Morgan Leigh Oldham
2021 – 35th**
2020 – 17th
2019 – 16th
2018 – 14th
2017 – 15th
2016 – 11th
2015 – 6th
2014 – 20th
2013 – 13th
2012 – 15th
2021 IN REVIEW
Auburn’s official final ranking of 35th last season gets a big heap of asterisks since the team was forced to withdraw from regionals because of COVID things. A more accurate representation of the season would be 15th place (where Auburn stood in the final standings before the postseason), a ranking pretty much on track with what we’ve seen from Auburn for the last half decade. Auburn had a very slow start to 2021 but pulled life together beginning in February for the kind of 197s we expect this team to get. Still, recording just one win in the conference (home against Georgia) and having the season artificially cut short will leave a sour and unsatisfying taste for 2021.
Meredith Sylvia – BB
Sabrina Cheney – FX
THE NEW ONES
Auburn has five new gymnasts this season, the most noteworthy of the bunch being a little ol’ Olympic champion named Suni Lee, an athlete who outstrips by light years the pre-college accomplishments of any other gymnast who has gone to Auburn. It’s not possible to overstate the astronomical level of the expectations for her, and…come on, the 10s are already written down on bars and beam.
At Auburn’s recent preview, Lee showed a dismount-free bars routine that was about a cast handstand away from a perfect score, and on beam, she signaled the somewhat surprising intention to retain her side aerial + loso + loso for college. It’s totally unnecessary difficulty for college, but 1) Lee will be expected to bring unnecessary difficulty as the Olympic champion, and 2) this series does allow her the improvisational leeway to leave it at one loso if she feels off without compromising her start value. So I’m on board. Lee performed 9 tenths of bonus on beam over the weekend, while only 6 tenths are required to start from a 10. Not to mention the 9 tenths of bonus she showed on bars, which will go up to 11 tenths when she dismounts for real.
Vault is the interesting one for me because it has never really been Lee’s friend, and she’ll be thrilled to leave the DTY behind in elite. But would the 1.5 work for her in college, or will Auburn go for the clean and comfortable full at a 9.95 start? Watch that space.
Joining Lee in this year’s new class is Sara Hubbard, who looks like a very convincing vault and floor competitor for the team. She has a Y1.5 on vault that will definitely see the lineup, and I’d expect her full-in to get into floor as well. Ananda Brown is another who owns the tumbling to make a very compelling case for herself on floor as part of a well balanced group overall. Besides Lee, this is mostly a vault and floor class, with Caroline Leonard also potentially providing depth options on those events.
Sophia Groth was the lone first year to compete all four events as Auburn’s preview and looks like a Swiss Army knife type, a gymnast who has a believable routine anywhere and could make any lineup depending on the needs of the team and how many of the 9.9s are available in a given week.
Yeah, it won’t be difficult to improve on 35th. But even so, the Suni injection alone will make Auburn far more competitive than the team showed throughout the regular season in 2021, and the additional vault and floor options provided by several of the other first years will help augment what proved to be Auburn’s weaker of the apparatuses last season. The big goal for Auburn—and greater challenge than simply starting quicker than last year and improving overall totals—will be to get out of this middle-teens, early-session-at-SECs rut that the team has found itself in lately, ideally elbowing into the top 10 or making the top half at the conference championship. That’s going to be extremely difficult and Auburn isn’t favored to do so, but it’s realistic enough to be the aim.
2021 Event Ranking: 23
|Lineup locks: Drew Watson, Derrian Gobourne, Sara Hubbard, Suni Lee|
|Lineup options: Cassie Stevens, Ananda Smith, Adeline Sabados, Piper Smith, Olivia Hollingsworth, Sophia Groth, Payton Smith, Caroline Leonard, Jada Glenn|
To some extent, Auburn underformed in 2021 on what should have been a strong event for the team given the Y1.5s available. As it happened, the lineup was as likely to go 48 as 49 and will need to step up the quality in 2022. Most important in achieving that change will be the new 1.5 from Hubbard and whatever vault Lee ends up performing, which should have a place in the lineup regardless. Pairing those two with the returning Y1.5s from Watson and Gobourne will provide the team with a higher-scoring and more competitive core.
It should also allow Auburn to be a little choosier in terms of the Yfulls that fill out the lineup, of which there are plenty. It will just be a matter of finding out whose landings are the most reliably 9.850, versus who is the most likely to throw in a 9.725 that the team does not want to have to count again. The rankings from last season tell us that those next-best Yfulls would be Sabados and Piper Smith, though I’d probably bet on Stevens, and do want to see what Ananda Brown ends up coming in with as well.
2021 Event Ranking: 14
|Lineup locks: Suni Lee, Derrian Gobourne, Aria Brusch|
|Lineup options: Piper Smith, Adeline Sabados, Cassie Stevens, Anna Sumner, Sophia Groth, Drew Watson, Olivia Hollingsworth, Gabby McLaughlin|
When the lineup was on, bars was Auburn’s best event last season and the only apparatus to hit the 49.4 mark, which happened on two occasions. The addition of Suni Lee’s 12.everything of a routine will only make it even clearer that bars is the strength for Auburn in 2022.
Other than Lee, Auburn is probably fine keeping things the same with this lineup because there are six high-quality returning routines that provided weekly countable scores last year. Gobourne and Brusch were the most 9.9y in 2021, so they will be the most obvious returning choices, and Piper Smith came from the back of the pack last year to get some of Auburn’s best bars scores, including a 9.925. Sabados and Stevens have been mainstays in that bars lineup for several seasons, but Sumner was scoring right there with them in 2021, and Groth should be about in that same category of bars worker. So there are choices.
2021 Event Ranking: 14
|Lineup locks: Suni Lee, Gabby McLaughlin, Cassie Stevens|
|Lineup options: Drew Watson, Morgan Leigh Oldham, Olivia Hollingsworth, Aria Brusch, Sophia Groth, Derrian Gobourne, Piper Smith|
Auburn’s beam lineup will similarly be in raptures at the introduction of Suni Lee’s score, which will elevate a six that was talented but unsettled last season and also experiences the team’s biggest loss in not having Meredith Sylvia around anymore. Given the presumed scores from Lee, McLaughlin, and Stevens, Auburn should have a strong and consistent anchor half of the lineup in 2022 that can withstand many of the usual beam terrors.
But settling the other half of the routines will be critical. There are soooo many beam-maybes on this team who competed 3-5 times last season, usually with one really strong routine, then a fall, then a fine one, then a wobbly one. There’s not a ton of obvious differences between the ~8 other beam options here. But Auburn needs to find the group. It’s possible that the three solid hits in the final three meets that the team got out of Oldham and Hollingsworth last season pointed the way.
2021 Event Ranking: 24
|Lineup locks: Derrian Gobourne, Suni Lee, Drew Watson, Cassie Stevens, Sara Hubbard|
|Lineup options: Ananda Brown, Aria Brusch, Olivia Hollingsworth, Adeline Sabados, Sophia Groth, Morgan Leigh Oldham, Piper Smith, Gabby McLaughlin|
With seemingly every team this season counting floor as a strength while also bringing in 58 new floor specialists, Auburn needs an injection of quality, and injection of big, in 2022. It should happen. We’ll see how much managing of legs needs to be done with Suni Lee since there was that pre-Olympic period this year when they looked to be made entirely of pills and wishes. But any time she can go, she’ll be a boost for the floor lineup. Though on floor, the first-year class isn’t exclusively about Lee. Both Hubbard and Brown should present compelling options—if not locks for the six—that save the lineup from having to open with 9.7s that automatically take them out of it compared to peer teams who open with E an pass and then just do a log roll to Dua Lipa after that for 9.925.
If Auburn can introduce those three to the lineup, then obviously Gobourne will continue to be the star we don’t deserve for 9.9s, and Stevens and Watson should be able to return with occasional 9.9s of their own to make up a very competitive lineup. Aria Brusch may also be in there, and Olivia Hollingsworth has more floor in her than we saw last season, so the required repertoire of 9.850+s definitely exists.