2009 AUBURN TIGERS GYMNASTICS
Over the course of its time competing in the sport of gymnastics, the Auburn Tigers have established themselves as a program with a lot of heart, and a lot of desire to compete. But they have also established themselves as a program that just has always seemed to be missing something. That missing link has always seemed to be the thing that has kept the team from elevating itself into the top half of the conference. To that point, Auburn gymnastics is riding a somewhat streak. The team has finished in 5th of 6th place in the Southeastern Conference for 15 consecutive seasons.
What is distinctly remarkable about that streak is that, in addition to the 15 consecutive seasons in which the Auburn women's gymnastics team has finished in 5th or 6th team, the team has managed to find itself in that spot throughout the course of its history in the SEC. Since beginning competition in the SEC back in 1981, the team has avoided finishing in 5th or 6th position only 3 times.
The first years of Auburn women's gymnastics were a period of learning, growth, and establishment of the program. The team competed under head coach Ed Bengston, who led the team for a full five seasons. He led the team to an overall record over his five seasons at Auburn of 30-17. Bengston, however, left the team following the 1980 season in which the team went 6-7, when the team felt that a change would potentially help elevate the team to the next level of competitiveness. At that point, head coach Tabor Medill was brought into the fold.
Medill was victimized by two things over the course of his years coaching Auburn women's gymnastics, One of those were a general decrease in the talent of recruits coming in, namely, due to the cycling out of the Bengston recruits, and the fact that Medill had not fully established himself as a recruiting presence in the region. And secondarily, he was victimized by higher expectations. People thought that by the time he arrived, 7 years into the establishment of the program, it would be ready to move on to another level of play. This was a mistaken assumption. Over the course of his 5 seasons at Auburn, Medill led the women's gymnastics program to a record of 35-73, posting no season better than 11-14, and finishing 10 games or more under .500 3 times.
Following the departure of Medill, Auburn gymnastics was taken over by Robert Dillard, who went on to serve as the longest tenured coach of the team to date. He served for 13 seasons. He also served during the finest years in the history of the team, although his overall record over the period was still only 186-236. But regardless, he was able to take a team in disarray and right the ship. After a few years of replenishment, Dillard put together a competitive team, and eventually, in his 5th season, led the team to its first ever year with an overall record of over .500, 14-12. The team then went one step further the following year, the team's first ever 20 win season, 22-18-1. And in 1993, the team had its best single season ever, a 31-13 season in which the team finished the season ranked 5th overall.
Current coach Jeff Thompson took over the squad in 2000, following a series of poor years under Dillard. His record has been generally unimpressive to date, 88-139-1 overall. But his teams are typically competitive, and have generally been within a couple games of .500. It remains to be seen whether Auburn will eventually break out of the current rut it finds itself in, and if Thompson is the coach to lead them there.
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