BY DANIEL LOCKE
FOR THE OBSERVER
The Auburn gymnastics team has a roster that is loaded with talent. Among these athletes is Cassie Stevens, a senior from Phoenix, Arizona, who has made her mark on the program.
“I’ve been doing gymnastics since I was like 2 or 3,” Stevens said. “My mom actually did it way back when, so she just loves it and put me in it to start.”
In a career that has spanned over 20 years, Stevens said she has a lot of fond gymnastics memories, but two stick out in her mind.
“One was probably my first year of level 10 Nationals when I got my skill named after me,” Stevens said. “That was pretty cool because I ended on beam, and you have to successfully compete it at a competition to get it named after you, and that was a really special moment.
“The second one would probably be vault at the Florida meet last year, just because there was a lot behind that, losing that one and a half and coming back and nailing it.”
Stevens has been at Auburn during one of the biggest transitions in program history. Gymnastics on The Plains has seen a huge increase in popularity, and Stevens has been part of the group that has laid the foundation.
“It’s been really special to be a part of,” Stevens said. “Just seeing, feeling and hearing the growth from my freshman year to my senior year — I feel like one of the biggest things is just our mindset is different.”
Gymnastics is largely an individual sport until athletes reach the collegiate level. That transition can be difficult, but Stevens said she appreciates the team aspect.
“It’s different for sure,” Stevens said. “It’s good because you have all the extra support, your teammates are there for you, they have your back. It also adds more pressure because you’re not only doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for your team — and you want to be successful for your whole team.”
Stevens had a big year in 2022, setting a career-high on every event. The sky is the limit for her in 2023.
“Last season, I gained a lot of confidence just in my competing and my gymnastics,” Stevens said. “I think how I build on that this year is with the mental side, like the confidence. My gymnastics is the same, if not better this year — maybe being in those bigger spots in the lineups and possibly getting those bigger scores and setting up Derrian (Gobourne) and Suni (Lee) for 10’s.”
The anchor in gymnastics is the last athlete to compete in an event. It is an important role because it can make or break the whole rotation. Stevens has moved into the anchor position on vault this season.
“I think that’s something really special, and I don’t take it lightly,” she said. “Knowing all the challenges I’ve had and being in the place where I am now, I see it as an opportunity, and I just want to be the best I can for my team.”
Stevens has responded well to seeing her role drastically increase this season.
“That’s just the most incredible feeling,” Stevens said. “That’s honestly why I do it. That’s one of the things that keeps me going is just that daily grind, but then seeing that work pay off in such a big manner. I love my spot — I really do.”
One accolade that all gymnasts strive for is to have a move named after them. That is something that Stevens has been able to check off her bucket list.
“For the longest time, I did a front handspring to my knee,” Stevens said. “Basically what I do now, but with my hands on the beam. I don’t remember whose first idea it was, but we just thought to try it without my hands, and it worked. The next summer, one of my teammates did a front toss, and then she was working a swing through front toss. I wanted to try a swing through into my front aerial to my knee. That whole year leading up to every meet, they have to turn in paperwork because it’s a new skill. If you qualify for competition at level 10 Nationals and successfully complete it, then it gets named after you.”
Auburn is a place that is near and dear to the hearts of many. Most of the athletes that compete for Auburn will say the same thing, and Stevens is no different.
“I just love the family aspect here — I really do,” Stevens said. “I know that’s cliché, and everyone says that, but it turns a big university into a small college, and people know your name. They genuinely care about you, and the support here is unwavering; the fans are like none I’ve ever seen.”
Stevens has left her mark on the Auburn gymnastics program. Time will tell how she continues her career and adds to her legacy on The Plains.