Ruby Meyers grabbed her sign Thursday during Auburn’s regional gymnastics semifinal. It read, ‘Go Auburn.’
Meyers is a six-year-old gymnast at Auburn Gymnastics Academy and on Thursday she looked at her mother and said, “I want to be like them.”
And she wasn’t the only inspired girl on Thursday with a love for the Tigers.
“My daughter was a cheerleader for years, but now she’s fascinated by Auburn gymnastics,” said Emily Eing, mother of an 11-year-old who was attending a gymnastics meet for the first time. from Auburn. “She was just like, ‘Can I start doing this instead of rejoicing?’ It will be the beginning of something beautiful thanks to them.
The Auburn team has sparked new interest this season, setting program records in competitions featuring freshman Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee.
On Thursday, the team advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinals and on Saturday, the Tigers again advance to the Regional Finals.
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Auburn’s gymnastics may be ranked No. 7 in the nation, but it’s safe to say it’s No. 1 in the hearts of many young girls watching.
Another such girl is Maddie Shuman.
Shuman is a gymnast at Xtreme Athletics in Opelika. At eight years old, she is a level four gymnast. She trains four days a week and competes across the state.
She has posters and T-shirts, and autographs from the team members.
Kelly Shuman, an accountant and mother to Maddie, was a gymnast growing up. She laid the groundwork for her daughter, but Auburn’s gymnastics keeps her going.
“I did it because mommy did it,” Maddie said. “I stayed because I want to be like the Tigers.”
Maddie said her favorite gymnasts are Lee and the standout eldest Derrian Gobourne. She enjoys watching their floor routine and crashing during competitions.
But for her mother, she loves knowing the positive influence Auburn gymnastics has on her daughter and the community.
“I love that she and other young girls have role models in this small town,” Shuman said. “Sometimes the team comes to their school, opens the doors for them, and they are kind to others and give them words of encouragement throughout the day. As a mother, I really appreciate that.
And while the team had an impact locally, it also had an impact statewide.
“I’m an Alabama fan, but I love the Auburn gymnastics team,” said Kali Vigneulle, a 10-year-old gymnast from Birmingham. “I’m their biggest fan.”
Another girl touched by the Tigers is Anniston Robison, 12, of Prattville.
Robison attended the competition with his family over spring break. She has been attending competitions for many years, but lately matches are “very nostalgic” for her.
Robison was a gymnast from age 6 to 10. She decided to quit the sport after noticing the time commitment as she progressed through the levels, but changed her mind when she saw that year’s Auburn gymnastics team in action.
“Every time I see them there, I miss it,” Robison said. “When I see them, I’m like, ‘I really want to do this again.’ It’s so fun to watch, and I remember when I used to do flips, work the uneven bars, and walk the balance beam.
Robison is an avid volleyball player, but watching gymnastics will always hold a special place in her heart.
“I love gymnastics; nothing can ever replace that,” she said. “I made so many friends, so many memories. No doubt I will cherish it for the rest of my life. “
As the Auburn Tigers prepare for the regional final on Saturday, whether they win or lose, they will always have a group of girls who will continue to believe in and love the team.
“I love the gymnastics at Auburn,” Maddie said. “Those are my favorites.”
PHOTOS: Auburn gymnastics progress at NCAA Regional