Saturday, April 25, 2015

MG Elite: On The Rise

Three years ago, an unknown junior and her coach were ready to make their debut at the Secret Classic. It was the year of the Olympic Games, and while much of the focus was on who would make the Olympic team, many eyes were still on the junior division, looking for the potential stars of 2016. As new faces in the world of elite gymnastics, nobody knew what to expect from these two. Despite being the youngest ― and perhaps the smallest ― in the competition, the unknown junior carried herself with confidence and poise. When she took to the floor, she commanded everyone's attention. The crowd quickly learned that this girl was not only a performer, but she had the skills to back it up.

How hard is it to blow away a crowd of thousands at your first major elite competition? Just ask Lauren “Laurie” Hernandez ― she had no problem doing it. When all was said and done, Hernandez finished 11th all-around (with a fall on bars) and qualified to the national championships. The gymnastics world liked what they saw, and they wanted to see more. Although Nationals didn't go as well as they would have liked, Hernandez and her coach Maggie Haney had done enough to put MG Elite on the map. It didn't take long for the fan pages to start popping up on social media and for fan mail to start rolling in.

Laurie with her first fan mail!

In the next year, Hernandez would find herself among the top junior elites in the country. Following a solid showing at a national team camp, she was added to the junior national team and was looking to continue to prove herself at the 2013 Secret Classic. This time, however, she wouldn't be competing alone. A girl named Jazmyn Foberg had recently begun training at MG Elite and earned her elite qualifying score at the Parkettes Qualifier. For Foberg, this competition was just about gaining experience.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the best competition for Jazzy; she fell twice, resulting in a 26th all-around finish, and failed to qualify to the national championships. Because she was so new to the program, Haney didn't have much time to prepare her for the competition, however it was a valuable learning experience. In their eyes, for her to even make it that far was a huge accomplishment.

For Hernandez, it was a great stepping stone competition. Despite falling off the beam, she managed to finish sixth all-around and win the floor title. Things only went up from there. At nationals, better known as the P&G Championships, Hernandez hit eight for eight and finished second overall, a vast improvement from her 21st place finish the year prior.

PC: Gymnastike

Hernandez earned herself a trip to Japan for her first international assignment. She went on to place third all-around. Shortly after, she was off to Mexico with Team USA for the Mexican Open. She placed second all-around and helped Team USA win the team gold- the perfect ending to a very successful "break-through" season.

2014 was a year filled with many emotions for Coach Haney. The year started out on a bad note when Hernandez fractured her wrist after falling off the beam in practice. The good news was Hernandez was expected to be back on track for the summer competition season. However, that all ended when she took a bad fall on vault at a national team camp and injured her knee. This not only meant the season was over for Hernandez, but she had to have surgery and would be out for six months. It was a huge heartbreaker for the gymnastics world, but Hernandez and Haney tried their best to stay positive.

"Sometimes when a kid is out for so long, it starts to seem like they will never make it back. When you realize all the time you are losing, it can be very depressing," Haney said. "Laurie and I worked really hard to keep her spirits up during her time out, and now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel."

While losing Hernandez for the season was tough, the show had to go on. The star inside Foberg was ready to shine. With several new upgrades for the season, Foberg was hungry to show the world what she really had. Her success started at the American Classic, where she won the junior division with a score that was good enough to win the senior division. Her performance gave her one of eight spots to compete in the senior session of the Secret Classic, an honor only given to the junior elites who showed the most promise and potential. It wasn't an error-free meet, but she hit all four events and finished fifth all-around and third on vault.

Things were shaping up well for the P&G Championships. She wasn't necessarily the favorite going in, but with the second highest amount of difficulty in the whole junior division, everyone knew in the back of their minds that Foberg could do big things. Just the year before, Foberg was as far away as she could be from winning the national championships... literally. She was on a cruise with her family in Florida while her friends competed in Hartford, Connecticut. This time, things were very different, but in a good way. She was one of the very few gymnasts who hit all eight of her routines, and for that, she was crowned the 2014 Junior National Champion!

"I didn't believe it at first," Foberg admitted. "I was shocked, but really proud!"

PC: Charles LeClaire

In addition to her all-around title, she finished fourth on vault, first on bars, ninth on beam and fifth on floor ― results that were unimaginable for her just the year before. Let this sink in-- in one year Foberg went from not even qualifying to JO Nationals as a level 10 to winning the P&G Championships as a junior elite. Suddenly, there was a new star from MG Elite, and Haney was thrilled. For a year that started out so low, it ended on a high note and gave Foberg all the confidence in the world.

"I think after Jazzy won Championships, it kind of solidified that she belongs," Haney said. "Like, now she knows she's legit."

Foberg and Hernandez spend approximately eight hours training together each day, but apparently, eight hours together isn’t enough for the pair of best friends.

"I can hardly separate the two of them!” Haney joked. “It's so crazy. The nights before we leave for camp, Laurie always sleeps over at my house, and by 8 P.M., they are FaceTiming each other! I guess eight hours together each day is just not enough!"

Although they are teammates ― and also sometimes each other’s biggest competition ― Foberg says she feels no competition between them.

"We always root for each other and want each other to do great!” Foberg said. “I always wish the best for her because she is such a great gymnast and my best friend."

Hernandez's feelings toward Foberg are mutual.

"I'm so happy to have Jazzy as a teammate," Hernandez said. "She is always there for me on my best days and my rough days. I'm so glad I get to compete with my best friend as well!"

They may be best friends, but Haney says they are quite different.

"Laurie is very silly, happy and a total performer,” Haney said. “She is always smiling and looking at the world with a positive thought. She is ready to take on anything. Jazzy is very serious and quiet. She doesn't say much; she just listens, processes and thinks things through. She is very smart."

But it’s their differences that have brought out a new side to each of them.

"Laurie has really helped me to bring Jazzy out of her shell as a gymnast and a teenager,” Haney said. “Jazzy has shown Laurie how important it is to pay close attention to what you are doing and to be aware of what is going on around you."

A friendship that has been going strong for over three years will continue on even when their elite days are over. To conclude 2014, both girls committed to the University of Florida, the defending three-time National Champions. But what sealed the deal?

"I saw how beautiful the campus was,” Hernandez said. “The area had such a great vibe!"

Foberg added, "I just fell in love with it! The campus, the gym and the coaches are so great!"

The two will join the team in 2018.

Here we are in 2015, and MG Elite is home to two of the best junior elites in the world, both of whom are considered top prospects for the Olympics in Rio next summer. So far this year, things are off to a great start. Maggie's first goal for Foberg and Hernandez was to make the Jesolo team and just "do the job." In reality, they did that and more. This meet was very important for each of them. For Hernandez, it was her first competition in over a year. For Foberg, it was her first international assignment ever. Both girls had something to prove.

Hernandez had a phenomenal competition, winning the gold medal for each opportunity she had: team, all-around, bars and floor. After being out for so long, Laurie was glad to be back.

"I was so excited to compete again!" she said. "Jesolo was a great experience and the team was great as well. I'm glad I was able to start out the season with this meet!"

Haney noted that she was very pleased with not only Hernandez's performance, but how much she has grown as a person over the last year.

"Laurie is a very special kid and I'm so proud of her for never giving up," Haney said. "Over the past year, she has matured so much; it's crazy. She is so much smarter now and more focused than ever before. I'm really excited for her future."

It was a strong competition for Foberg as well, who said she didn't feel any pressure coming into this season as the reigning National Champion, despite initially thinking that she would. Although she said she was nervous to compete in her first international competition, she was able to relax once she hit the competition floor. She noted that Simone Biles was a big help and gave her some great advice: "Just stay calm, have fun and do what you do in the gym."

Foberg did her job and left Italy with some hardware: a gold medal each for team and vault and a bronze for the all-around competition. Not bad for her first international assignment!

"You never would have known by the way that she carried herself,” Haney said. “She is a very calm competitor and was not fazed at all."

"The hardest part was making sure she understood the expectations and intensity she would be facing. She is still relatively 'new' to it all, so it's a learning process for her but she is handling it all with no problems."

Haney added that overall she was very happy with the outcome of the meet for both of her girls. For her, winning gold in every event final they made was just 'icing on the cake.'

"As a coach, you always have a plan or a hope of how a meet will go down, but it's really nice when it actually happens the way you want!"

With Jesolo in the books, it was back to New Jersey and time to get busy. Their next goal is to prepare for Championships and prove that they can be competitive in the senior division by next year. And although it's top secret, Maggie says there are upgrades in the works for both girls.

"Laurie and Jazzy are both strong all-around competitors, but I need to make them stronger on certain events where they can be valuable to a team," Haney said. "I'm really pushing them on bars, as I think they can contribute on that event. We are working several upgrades on beam and floor as well."

When asked their goals for this season, both girls kept it simple: hit all their events and remain on the National Team, keeping the goals attainable and close at hand.

With the Rio Olympics a little over a year away, Haney says that, although it's a daily ― sometimes hourly ― thought in her head, she doesn't talk about it much with her girls. It can be intense and hard work coaching elite level athletes to their goal, which, in this case, is the Olympic Games.

"We never get a lazy day," Haney said. "I also coach my kids on every event, so that is a big responsibility. I am single handedly responsible for their warm up, conditioning, vault, bars, beam, floor, flexibility and choreography."

Sound stressful? It certainly can be, and Haney is the first to admit it.

However, she added, "It's working for us, so I feel like it's the right choice."

It's hard work now, but it will hopefully be worth it in the end. It's been one heck of a journey so far with climbing to the top of the ranks in just a few short years, and there's no denying the outcome this trio is looking for. When Hernandez and Foberg were asked about their future goals in the sport of gymnastics, Rio was mentioned right away. Both girls also expressed interest in possibly competing at a World Championships after the games since they won't be eligible this year.

Right now, it's one step at a time for Hernandez, Foberg and Haney. They've got a big year ahead of them, and from the way things have been going, it's bound to be a good one! Only time can tell what the future holds, but fans from around the world are hopeful that a trip to Rio is in the cards for the talented trio from MG Elite.

Thank you Maggie, Jazzy, and Laurie for the interview! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Catching up with Shayla Worley

Shayla Worley is best known as being a member of the 2007 World Championship team that took gold in Stuttgart, Germany. She was an established gymnast at the elite level for seven years, earning a spot on the US National team during six of those years. Some of her career highlights include placing second in her first competition as a senior- the 2006 American Cup, as well as placing second at the 2007 US National Championships. After injuries kept her home from the 2008 Olympics, Worley made the transition into collegiate gymnastics and began competing as a Georgia Gymdog in 2010. In this interview, Shayla talks about the ups and downs of her career at the elite level and life after gymnastics.

Photo belongs to Lloyd Smith

Can you start by talking a little bit about how you got started in gymnastics? Who were your idols growing up?
I got started in gymnastics when I was three. My older sister, Jolene, had started taking classes and I wanted to be just like her, so naturally I started taking classes too. I always loved Nadia growing up. I named all my teddy bears after her.

When did you realize that you had potential to make it far in gymnastics and at what age did the Olympics become a realistic goal for you?
The gym I started at was closing down so we switched to Orlando Metro when I was eight. Like most gymnasts, I can remember being convinced I could go to the Olympics. It wasn't long after moving to Metro that Jeff sat me down and told me if I wanted to be serious about the Olympics, I would have to quit spending time on acting and modeling and commit everything to gymnastics. I was a level 8 at the time.

What are some of your earliest memories of going to the national team camps?
I can remember going to the ranch for the first time in 2002 for the TOPS National Team camp, where Sam Peszek and I were roommates and instantly became best friends. We are still best friends to this day. I was invited back to the ranch again early the next year and hit it off with Alicia [Sacramone] and Nastia [Liukin]. That was back when I used the pay phone to call my mom and let her know I was still alive, long before I owned a cell phone or laptop and before the ranch had internet. And before those nice new rooms were built!

You were apart of the 2007 World Championships team that won gold in Germany. Can you talk about that experience and what it did for you in terms of confidence going into the Olympic year?
Being apart of that team was special in so many ways. We were the true definition of a team.We knew each other so well and cared for one another more than any other team I had been on previously. I know that was the key to our success. I remember there being very few mistakes in the weeks of practice leading up to the meet, meaning we were peaking at exactly the right time. But we didn't have a perfect day on team finals, we had some mistakes on beam and going into our last rotation, floor, we huddled up and decided we were still gonna win that thing. And that's exactly what we did! We came roaring back on floor and sealed the deal. Words can't describe what we felt after Alicia finished her floor routine and we realized we had won. It's a memory I will always treasure.

Photo belongs to USA Gymnastics

During your elite career, what were some of the ups and downs you faced? Is there a point in your career looking back now that you can pinpoint as the highest or the lowest moment for you?
The daily ups and downs of practice were endless. By far the most difficult thing for me in gymnastics was staying healthy. I was not built very durable. I herniated my first disk in my back at 14 and had too many other injuries to name.I had a lot of highs in my career with Worlds probably being the highest. Breaking my leg the day the 2008 Olympic team was selected was by far the hardest time in my elite career. When you've had one goal you're entire life and it's the only thing you've ever dreamed of and when you've spent 15 years working toward it day in and day out and you missed it because an injury the day of, it's pretty devastating.  I had never even thought past the year 2008.  At that point in my life, my entire self worth revolved around a single gymnastics competition. Since then, I have learned that as a person, you are not defined by the things you accomplish and you're happiness with yourself should not be dependent upon your daily performance in the gym. Of course I encourage all athletes to dream big and work harder but some of the most important things are the relationships you build, the impact you make on others, and the life lessons/attributes you gain along the way.

You dealt with injuries leading up to the Olympic Games but still managed to be back in time for trials. How did you feel going into that competition? Did you feel like your spot on the team was out of reach?
I had some issues with my back prior to Trials but by the time the National Team Training Squad camp rolled around, I was ready to go. I had done the training needed to peak at the right time. I felt very confident. Unfortunately my body just couldn't hold up.

There was a brief point in time where you wanted to continue on in elite but eventually decided to move on to college gymnastics. How hard (or easy) of a decision was that for you? 
Yes, after the 2008 games I did think I wanted to defer a semester of college to try for worlds. But after a few months I realized that the main reason I wanted to continue towards the 2009 world championships was because I was hoping to fill a void and realistically, no world championship could really fulfill the loss of an Olympic dream.  My heart wasn't really into it although I tried to convince myself other wise and once I finally realized this, I decided I was ready to move on to the next phase in my gymnastics career.

Talk about your experience as a gymnast at the University of Georgia. What were some of the highlights for you?
I loved every minute of my time at the University of Georgia. I feel so blessed to have been apart of such a wonderful team at a university where so many people care about you as both an athlete and an individual. I think most college gymnasts will tell you that it is absolutely the best experience imaginable. It's such a magical transformation to go from elite gymnastics where it's all about you, to college where no individual is more important than the team and where you legitimately want to perform your best for everyone but yourself. I can't say enough wonderful things about the coaches, the athletic association, the Gymdogs and what we represent, and the entire University of Georgia. I will forever be grateful for my time there.

Looking back on your career, both elite and college, what would you say you are most proud of? 
Looking back on my career there are many athletic achievements that I am proud of such as being the first World Championship team to win gold on foreign soil. But the thing I am most proud of is that my peers and teammates considered me a leader. I cherish the impact I've been able to have on the people around me and the life long relationships I've cultivated. That's something that will last a lifetime. 

And finally what have you been up to lately? Do you still stay involved with gymnastics?
Gymnastics has given me so many wonderful opportunities such as going to a wonderful University that I would have otherwise never been able to attend and opened so many other doors of opportunity. After I graduated, I decided to get my MBA at UGA and after that I was very fortunate to land a solid job at a financial brokerage firm in Atlanta doing wealth management. I really enjoy my job and the people I work with. As far as being involved with the gymnastics community, I will still be able to do two summer camps this year for two of my favorite gyms  (I have to use vacation days at work) and I am still very involved with the Gymdogs by being an Alumni Aunt (a mentoring program) and serving on the alumni board. Gymnastics has been a huge part of who I am and will continue to be.

Photo belongs to UGA Sports Communication

Monday, March 30, 2015

Dear Gymternet - Journals from Elena Arenas (Entry #10 March 2015)

Dear Gymternet, 

I have had so much fun this past month! I was in the Storyworks magazine, learned some new skills and went to developmental camp!

My favorite part of this month was being in the Storyworks magazine. I was interviewed over the phone for an hour and a half and had a four hour photo shoot. In some pictures I had to wear a leotard and in others I wore clothes. I had to come up with a lot of poses! I had so much fun doing it though! At first I was kind of nervous, but after about 10 minutes I got more comfortable. The magazine went out to elementary schools across the country! A couple of schools that I live by have asked me to come and speak to the students and I'm really really scared for that! Being chosen to be in the magazine was a really great experience for me and something that I will never ever forget.

Elena posing for Storyworks Magazine

In the gym I've been working a few new skills over the last couple of weeks. I've been consistently landing yurchenko double fulls on vault and making inside stalders on bars. Recently, I tried an inside stalder full and made it! I have been working double layouts on floor (on to floor height) and they are getting more consistent. 

Elena and her friend from camp cheering on Nastia

I also went to developmental camp this month and it went great! I verified some new skills on bars and floor and did them successfully. I had so much fun with the girls and we all got to watch Nastia Liukin on Dancing with the Stars! We were all cheering for her and voting for her. I go back to camp at the end of May. Immediately after that camp, I'll be competing at the American Classic and trying to qualify to the P&G Championships. I might be adding some new skills in my routines that I didn't do at the WOGA Classic. I can't wait to compete again!


Friday, March 20, 2015

Our favorite NCAA floor routines from 2015

Photo belongs to GymShark

Lloimincia Hall- LSU
I couldn't think of a better way to kick off this post then with the one and only Lloimincia Hall. For the last four years Lloimincia has taken the gymnastics world by storm with her powerful tumbling and equally explosive dance. I have never seen anyone perform the way she does and be able to get a crowd of 5,000+ fans on their feet at every meet. Heck, her routine is even a hit at away meets! The floor is truly Lloimincia's stage. The amount of energy and passion Hall puts into every movement is what makes her stand out. After watching so many cookie-cutter routines where the gymnast just goes through the motions, it's refreshing to see someone make it a point to actually perform and sell her routine. As gymnastics fans I'm sure that's something we can all appreciate. Llomincia loves what she's doing and to me- there is nothing more beautiful then that. While I'm going to miss watching Llomincia on floor next season, I'm so thankful for all the fun times she has brought to the world of NCAA gymnastics. Her floor routines have always been a highlight for me year after year! I know I'm not the only person who got a little teary eyed after watching her routine on senior night. In my opinion, Lloimincia's floor work is something that will remain legendary in our sport.

Sophina DeJesus- UCLA
Her nickname is "Sophina The Diva" and that's certainly no surprise after watching her take the floor! Sophina has a level of sass that is almost untouchable. She performs confidently and with purpose which is what sets her apart on this event. It also helps that she has a natural rhythm and performance quality...after all she has been performing on TV since she was a young girl. (Hip Hop Harry). UCLA is known for their unique, crowd pleasing choreography and I will be the first to admit that I fell in love with this routine from the moment I saw it. I had a huge smile on my face the entire time and from the video you can even see the crowd was loving it! When a routine can get that kind of reaction from the people in the audience you know you must be doing something right! Sophina is so fierce and I hope to see her in UCLA's floor lineup more next season because she is truly a star!

Kate Aberger- Southern Connecticut State University 
I was always a big fan of Kate during her competitive dance days and it's been really cool to watch her transition into collegiate gymnastics. I always knew her as a dancer on YouTube and didn't even realize she was going to be a college gymnast until last year! I was only able to find one video of Kate performing her routine in competition and it wasn't the best quality, so here is a dance through she did at the beginning of the season! I really like this routine! Kate's dance training is certainly evident and she performs with such confidence and ease! She has excellent posture and pays attention to small details, which in my opinion, makes a huge difference. The choreography is sharp, upbeat and fun for the crowd to clap along to! I look forward to seeing more from Kate in the future as she is only a freshman.

Talia Chiarelli- Michigan
We literally go to every home meet at Michigan and this has been one of my favorite routines to watch week in and week out! It's an upbeat routine and Talia really seems to enjoy it. The beat of the music is easy for fans to clap along with and Talia does a good job of making her routine interactive and fun. I think my favorite part has to be after her second pass when she shoots her teammates and they all fall to the ground! I remember laughing the first time I saw that because it was kinda unexpected, but totally awesome at the same time. Definitely a fun routine to watch in person!

Chayse Chapps- Oklahoma
I LOVE this routine. Absolutely brilliant choreography. Chayse Chapps is undoubtedly one of the greatest performers in the NCAA currently. When it comes to making eye contact with the judges and really drawing the crowd in I don't think you could find anyone who does it better. Chayse also has excellent musicality- hitting every single beat and interpreting the music well. It's refreshing to see someone actually dance to the music and not just pose! Props to Chayse for bringing a beautiful performance week after week!

Kytra Hunter- Florida
This routine is a lot of fun! In the past, Kytra has always been a little mechanical in her movements and kinda just went through the motions. It's been great to see her loosen up a bit and really work on her showmanship this year. I remember hearing her say when she was an elite that she hated dancing on floor. Now she looks relaxed out there and like she's truly enjoying herself. She has always been known for her dynamic tumbling and now she has the performance quality to back it up! Her smile just lights up the room! I'm going to miss watching Kytra on floor next season.

What have been your favorite floor routines from this season? Comment below or tweet us!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Recording Breaking Season for Auburn Gymnastics

For Auburn gymnastics, this season has been one for the record books. They have flown under the radar and are making history for their program-- all while staying calm, cool and collected. Auburn gymnastics has never had a season quite like this and the only direction they are looking to go is up. Currently ranked 8th in the nation and in the top 10 on every event (except for bars where they are ranked 11th) if the Tigers weren't in your conversations before, they certainly should be now. It goes without saying that this year is Auburn's year.

The success started early. Regardless if it was a win or loss, the Tigers steadily improved their team score every week for the first six meets of the season. At the first home meet of the season, they posted a 197.075 to top SEC rival Arkansas. They kept that momentum going and just missed beating LSU by the narrowest of margins a few weeks later. Their final team score of 197.300 was a half tenth away from taking down the LSU Tigers and out of all the teams in the SEC conference, Auburn came the closest to doing so.

Photo Credit: Wade Rackley

Prior to this season, Auburn gymnastics had only broke 197 four times in program history. This season alone they have posted scores in the 197's five times and still have the post-season to increase that number. (Fun fact: Auburn is hosting one of the regional championships this year and if they place in the top two, they will qualify a team to the NCAA Championships for the first time in 12 years!) The Tigers biggest victory so far this season came when they broke the school record with a score of 197.750 at home versus Georgia. Not to mention, they did it in front of a sold out crowd of 7,424 fans. Senior, Megan Walker wanted to make history and really pushed for fans to come out and support her team. "It was something I have dreamed about since I came to school, so it was a very special feeling to have it come true." she said. Before that night, the gymnastics team had never sold out the Auburn Arena and they wanted to change that. Megan says she and the team were very excited when they found out their mission was accomplished. "Not many schools can say that their gymnastics program is capable of selling out an entire arena!" Walker mused. "It goes to show how much our sport is growing and how exciting it can be for fans to see us flip around!" Head Coach Jeff Graba added that it was one of the personal highlights for him this season and says it's a "huge milestone" for the program.

Photo Credit: Anthony Hall

Being in the SEC conference gives Auburn the chance to go head to head with some of the top teams in the nation. While it's not an easy conference to be in, Coach Graba says his team uses it as motivation. "Our philosophy is that in order for us to be the best, we need to compete against the best in the country." Graba said. "Because of our schedule-- the toughest in the country this year, by the time we get to the post-season our team will be hardened and ready for whatever is thrown at us." Defeating Georgia with a program high in front of their first ever sold out crowd, coming the closest to beating LSU out of all the schools in the SEC, and posting a record away score (197.025) versus their in-state rival Alabama is no small task and Auburn has risen to the occasion. (It's worth noting that Auburn and Bama met twice this season, the first time being at Bama and the second on a podium at a neutral site, creating a Championship-like atmosphere.) This season Auburn has managed to break almost every record that there is to break (several records they have even broke twice) and they proved that they can hang with the best. Even when they lose, they manage to keep it close- which sends a strong message that they are right up there and can contend against the top teams.

Junior Caitlin Atkinson has been a large part of Auburn's success. Competing in the all-around in almost every meet since her freshman year, Caitlin has set career highs of 9.950 on vault and beam, and 9.975 on bars and floor. She has broke the programs all-around record twice this season with a high of 39.750 and currently sits 5th in the national rankings. (She's been ranked as high as 4th this season.) Her strong, steady, and consistent performances make her one of the leaders of the team.

Photo Credit: Anthony Hall

Auburn's consistent and top notch performances all season long have landed them as high as 7th in the nation with the highest RQS score in program history, Their 197.020 RQS is good enough to secure their place in the evening session of the SEC Championships alongside Florida, LSU, and Alabama. And if you didn't see it coming, yes- this is another "first" in program history. When asked if he was surprised by his teams success this year, Coach Graba says he is not--but he certainly is happy. "I knew all along that we were capable of this type of season, but being capable is just part of the puzzle. I am happy that the team has bought into our philosophy and have embraced the challenges in a positive way." Graba also noted that his team has not done anything differently from years in the past. "I think this year is a culmination of all our preparation from the previous years."

For the rest of the season, the goal remains quite simple. "We need to continue to get better. I think this team is improving each week and my goal for them is to take it one day at a time." Graba said. "I think it's hard for others to understand that this team is in a position that is unheard of for a gymnastics team at Auburn. They are breaking a lot of records here and I believe it is important for them to ignore some of the buzz as much as possible or we risk losing our momentum. My goal is to make each day better than the last. Keep the goals attainable and close at hand so to speak."

Photo Credit: Anthony Hall

As we head into the post-season, all eyes will be on Auburn. They've already broken numerous records and are hungry to break more in the post-season. But most importantly, it's all about having fun while doing what they love. "Auburn gymnastics is about having fun, working hard, and letting the results of this show up on the competition floor." said Graba.

And that is exactly what the Tigers do.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

10 Things You Don't Know About...Margzetta Frazier

1. My middle name is Byrantina. (My parents names are Bryan and Tina)
2. I have 3 siblings and their names are éMjae, Tytan and Billie. I am the oldest! 
3. My favorite color is red and my favorite number is 3. 
4. I was born in Pennsylvania, but I have been living in New Jersey my whole life.  
5. I am slightly obsessed with Michael Jackson! My first optional floor routine was to Smooth Criminal and I did the moonwalk! 
6. I love to sing, dance and write poetry and stories. 
7. My favorite subject in school is science. 
8. My favorite animals are dogs and okapi's. 
9. I currently have 6+ pets. (1 dog, 2 lizards, 3 turtles and many fish.) 
10. My role models are my parents and Elizabeth Price. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Catching up with Anna Glenn

Anna Glenn is a level 10 gymnast from Southeastern Gymnastics in Weddington, North Carolina. Born in Nanchang China, Anna and her twin sister Grace were adopted in 1999 and both started gymnastics shortly after. Ever since, the pair have been unstoppable. Often times they go head to head in competitions, battling it out for first place and they have even committed to the same college-UCLA! Anna is the 2012 JO National uneven bars champion (she also placed 2nd on beam) and a two time Nastia Liukin Cup qualifier! Last year she finished sixth all around and second on beam at the 2014 JO National Championships. So far this season, Anna has won the balance beam title as well as the all around at every competition she's competed in! Talk about impressive!

We caught up with Anna to talk about her goals for this season, UCLA, competing with her twin sister and more!

Photo belongs to

How did you get started in gymnastics?
I got started with gymnastics by going to a friends Olympiad. Instead of watching, I was jumping on the equipment and could not stay still. To control some of my energy, my parents decided to put me in gymnastics. Also, being born in China, my growth motor skills were delayed so I was put in gymnastics to help with that.

Have you been back to China to visit? 
My family and I went back in August of 2008, right before the Olympics.

What is like training and competing with your twin sister? 
Training and competing with my sister makes my life a lot easier. We are really close as we do everything together. We both are each others toughest competition and generally finish one and two at every meet, but we are both very supportive of each other.

You and your sister are both committed to UCLA for the 2016-2017 school year. Did you always plan to go to the same college? 
My sister and I knew we wanted to go to the same college from the start. We couldn't imagine being separated during such a big part of our lives. We were looking for the same opportunities and had the same expectations while looking at colleges.

What are you looking forward to most about competing in college gymnastics?
I am looking forward to the team aspect and making life long friendships. I'm also excited about competing on the west coast and enjoying sunny California!

Why did you choose UCLA?
I chose UCLA because I was really drawn to the campus, location, coaches and academic program. Both my sister and I were looking for a school that had both a great academic program as well as gymnastics program. We felt that UCLA was the best option for these criteria.

Many high profile athletes such as Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, and Madison Kocian are committed to UCLA. How exciting is that? 
I am super excited to compete with such high level athletes such as Simone, Kyla and Madison. I think that we all will become very close quickly,

What has been the proudest moment in your career so far? 
The proudest moment in my career was when I qualified to the Nastia Cup at the Greensboro Invitational. We competed on a podium and it was a super fun meet. I nailed my beam routine, which was my last event, and knew that I had won.

What is it like competing in the Nastia Cup and are you nervous to compete in such a big arena for this years cup?
Competing at the Nastia Cup is good competition for me. I like being in a competition where I really have to fight to win. I like competitions- the large stadium just pumps up my adrenaline.

Was there ever a point in your career where you considered trying for elite? 
After my first year of level 10, my coach, sister, and family discussed elite, but we never really wanted to do it in the first place. My sister and I thought it would be best to enjoy our high school career as a level 10 and save our bodies for collegiate gymnastics.

What are some of your goals- for this season and in the future? 
Some goals I have for the rest of the season are to do well at the Nastia Cup, stay consistent, qualify to regionals and nationals again, and do well at nationals. Some of my future goals are to stay healthy, win an NCAA title, and excel at UCLA.

Are you currently working on any upgrades? 
As far as upgrades, I'm not working on anything new currently. I usually start working on new skills after season. I'm just trying to stay safe with the skills I'm currently competing.

This routine won Anna the balance beam title at the 2014 Nastia Liukin Cup!