AU Senior Hoping for Encore Opportunity

Kylie Shields (left) celebrates a good routine.

Kylie Shields is hoping to qualify for a trip to the gymnastics nationals by performing well on Saturday in front of a home crowd.

Auburn, Ala.--Saturday's NCAA Women's Gymnastics Regional could be the final competition for Auburn's Kylie Shields, but if the senior gets her way she will be able to make an encore performance later this month at the nationals.

Her Tigers are the host for a six-team competition that starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday, one of six scattered around the country. At each of those regionals the top two teams, plus the top two individuals not on an advancing team, qualify for the national championship meet, which is scheduled for April 20-22 at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.

Auburn is the No. 3 seed for the regional behind Georgia and Oregon State. Perennial power Michigan is considered a very strong fourth seed while West Virginia and Michigan State complete the lineup of teams competing at the Auburn Arena.

Coach Jeff Graba's Auburn team, which is ranked 18th nationally, has generally scored higher at home than on the road this season. He said the Tigers will have to bring their "A" game to the arena on Saturday night to compete with what he noted is a strong regional field. "It's nice to be at home and not have to deal with the travel," Graba said.

Shields noted that she is hoping the Tigers put together one of their best performances on Saturday evening in front of the home crowd.

"It's definitely a huge advantage being at home," she said. "We are used to the equipment, we are used to where the lights are when you're flipping upside down and stuff like that. We don't have to travel anywhere so we don't have to deal with the wear and tear of getting on a plane or bus.

"There is nothing like competing at home either so that just gets your spirits up, too," Shields added. "We are definitely going into this ready to go full-throttle."

Asked what the Tigers need to do out-perform the seeding expectation and advance to the nationals, Shields said, "I think the key thing for us is to just really be ourselves. We need to get in our bubble and just not worry about anything that is going on around us, just doing the gymnastics that we know we can do and enjoy doing.

"We need to have fun every time we are in the arena so we need to not worry about the scores or worry about if we are going to make mistakes," she said. "It is about going out there and hitting our routines, staying on our feet and having confidence."

Kylie Shields is shown in action competing for the Tigers. After graduation she plans to coach gymnastics.

Commenting on her personal approach to competing in an NCAA regional, Shields said, "I think it's different every time. This year, especially for me, I'm just enjoying it. You never know what's going to happen because it is one time up and once you do, it's done.

"This year I'm really not trying to get caught up in making everything the best," she added. "I'm just trying to make it count. And I'm enjoying being with the team, enjoying doing gymnastics because it's going to come to an end soon and I don't want to have any regrets."

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