Derrian Gobourne took a breath and stepped into the spotlight on Friday night — into the center of attention, with the pressure on.
A packed house in Auburn Arena turned to her as she walked onto the floor with the rivalry meet’s result hanging in the balance.
It was pressure-packed. It was nerve-wracking.
And it was just where she wanted to be.
Gobourne was ice cold in nailing her floor routine with the meet on the line on Friday night, walking off a monumental win for Auburn over rival Alabama by throwing down her stellar score on the floor routine to close the meet just after Alabama fell on beam to open the door.
The sensational sophomore kicked that door down — and for Gobourne, Auburn’s rising superstar, the astounding is starting to become the expected after she laid down another signature performance on Friday night in the gymnastics team’s home opener.
“I honestly like it,” Gobourne said after the meet, of being in that high-pressure position. “I mean, I don’t really put too much pressure on myself, and this is an event that I can just go all out on and it’s really not that hard for me.
“I just let it at all out,” she said. “I love being in that position.”
Gobourne, who won a claim to an individual national championship on vault last year to cap a superb freshman season, opened her sophomore campaign in Auburn Arena with a solid all-around performance — but with no moment bigger to her clutch floor performance set to wild cheers on the Plains.
Simply put, the meet depended on it. After nearly four full rotations, the meet came down to the last two routines, the first of which saw Alabama suffer an uncharacteristic second fall on the beam by its anchor performer, which cracked the window to allow Auburn to win over Alabama for just the second time since 1980. Powerhouse Alabama has dominated the series for decades, with Auburn’s only other win in 40 years coming on another magic night in 2016, and suddenly the chance to make history again fell on Gobourne’s shoulders.
In the big moment, she matched her career-high on the floor.
“That helps a lot,” Gobourne said of the rocking energy in sold-out Auburn Arena, embracing that big moment. “Like before I saluted, everyone was going crazy and I needed that energy. I really did.”
And for Auburn, there’s no one else the Tigers wanted in that position than Gobourne.
“Derrian’s the one for us, for sure,” senior teammate Skyler Sheppard said.
Gobourne launched herself to a 9.875 on vault to start the night, down actually from the 9.9 she threw down in Auburn’s first meet of the season last week in California, but she bounced by back laying down a meet-best 9.925 on bars.
Then she was cool, calm and collected on the floor. She said she happened to be looking in that direction when Alabama suffered its fall on the routine before her. Like most gymnastics teams Auburn is coached to keep focused and not pay mind to the other team. But Sheppard said she heard the gasps from the fans. And Gobourne happened to see it happen as she prepared for her floor routine.
“I was just like, ‘I’m just going to be normal.’ That’s kind of what happened,” she said in the post-meet press conference.
“That’s usually a good idea,” her head coach Jeff Graba chimed in next to her, jokingly.
For Gobourne, “normal” is starting to become unbelievable.
“Derrian is a one-of-a-kind athlete and it’s amazing,” Sheppard said. “I’m speechless for her performances every single time.”
Auburn travels for a meet at LSU on Friday before returning to Auburn Arena for a home meet against Missouri on Jan. 24.