Toomer’s Corner was rolled last time Alabama gymnastics competed at Auburn. The 2016 showdown marked the end of the Crimson Tide’s 117-meet winning streak against the Tigers. And it all came down to Auburn’s final competitor on the floor exercise.
Caitlin Atkinson, who has since graduated from AU, needed to score above a 9.9 to push Auburn ahead of Alabama for the first time in 36 years.
She earned a 9.925.
A sold-out Auburn Arena erupted.
“Frustration,” UA coach Dana Duckworth said Monday. “Honestly, I don’t ever talk about the… Yeah, let’s just say frustration.”
With an unwanted clean slate.
Friday, the Crimson Tide heads back into Tiger territory hoping to build on its current four-meet streak. Two of those wins come from Alabama’s pair of regular-season victories over Auburn last season. The others are from scoring higher at the SEC Championships in 2016 and 2017.
No. 7 Alabama at No. 16 Auburn
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Auburn Arena
Records: Alabama 4-3, 4-2 SEC; Auburn 6-6, 1-4 SEC
TV: SEC Network
“Being from Chicago, I didn’t totally understand just how big the rivalry was,” Alabama sophomore Shea Mahoney said. “So right when I got here, it really clicked in my brain and I understood that it’s a really big deal.”
To friends and family back home in Algonquin, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago, Mahoney compares the in-state schools’ history to the in-city MLB rivalry between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox.
But “times 10 billion.”
“I was like, ‘I’ve never seen a rivalry like this,’” Mahoney said. “I have watched all the ESPN stories with the extremes people for to for the rivalry, so I basically was like, ‘You don’t understand it until you are a part of it.’”
The all-time record between Alabama and Auburn stands at 121-10, greatly in favor of Alabama. As for the Cubs and White Sox, the two hold a 58-54 record that barely leans toward the White Sox.
Still, in Mahoney’s mind, the Crimson Tide equals the Cubs, who just so happened to win the World Series most recently in 2016.
“I’m excited,” said redshirt sophomore Peyton Ernst, who has never competed in an Iron Bowl since she transferred from Florida and had to sit out last season. “I love big rivalries. I think, for everyone, they kind of thrive off that.”
Alabama is ranked No. 7 for the second week in a row, while Auburn is lower in the standings at No. 16. There’s a 0.52-point difference between their averages. Nine spots separate them.
Flashback to two years ago again, the Crimson Tide was fourth and the Tigers were eighth – a 0.602-point difference. Numbers clearly can go out the window with this rivalry, regardless of UA’s dominance in the past.
It’s time for Alabama to return to Auburn.
“Their arena is very intimate,” Duckworth said. “Those students are right there, right on you, so you feel it and you know they’re there. It’s loud and electric.
“Of course it’s Alabama versus Auburn, it’s the Iron Bowl of gymnastics, so it will be intense.”