Suni Lee threw in an effortless flip on her first pitch for the Twins because she can

Of COURSE, an Olympian would do that on the mound.

Before the Twins and Blue Jays played a little game of baseball on Friday night, Minnesota welcomed a special guest to the stadium — Tokyo 2020 gold medalist Suni Lee.

With the 19-year-old world-class gymnast in a relative break before any major competitions, the Twins had the St. Paul native Lee come and throw out the first pitch. And you might think otherwise, Dearest Readers, but this was no ordinary first pitch.

Lee is, you know, one of the most athletic people on the planet. So instead of just throwing the ball across home plate, she did a complete front flip on her pitch windup. Why? Because she could!

Oh, wait, this was the plan the whole time? And this was the equivalent of a warmup???

Oh sweet heavens, look at that angle. Why don’t more MLB teams invite Olympians to throw out first pitches? If cool things like this happen when they’re on the mound, they have no excuse.

For what it’s worth, the Twins went on to win 6-5 with a thrilling walk-off play at the plate:

Huh. Maybe Minnesota should bring Lee and her effortless front flips in more often if these are the results.

WATCH: Suni Lee delivers epic first pitch at Minnesota Twins game

Lee returned to her home state to add some gymnastics flair to the traditional first pitch.

Very rarely does a student-athlete have a distinguished career BEFORE stepping on campus. The one exception for Auburn athletics is gymnastics superstar [autotag]Sunisa Lee[/autotag].

Just months before taking her first college class, Lee won a gold medal with Team USA in the All-Around event, as well a bronze medal in the uneven bars during the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Friday, Lee returned to her home state in Minneapolis, Minnesota to throw out the first pitch at the Minnesota Twins’ game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Target Field. In true Suni Lee fashion, she delivered the first pitch with incredible style.

Lee will return to Auburn for her sophomore season in 2023. As a freshman in 2022, Lee reached a perfect 10.000 score five times in two different events. She reached the perfect score three times on beam against Kentucky on February 25, against Florida on March 4, and finally at the NCAA Regionals on April 2.

On the bars, she reached 10.000 twice, once at LSU on February 2, and again at the SEC Championships on March 19.

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Auburn gets two mentions in 2022 ESPY nominations

One of them will please Tigers fans — the other, not so much.

The Auburn Tigers are getting some representation at ESPN’s 2022 ESPY awards.

The Plains are a part of two nomination categories for the ESPYS, which take place on July 20. To Auburn fans’ delight, [autotag]Sunisa Lee[/autotag] was nominated for two categories, top women’s Olympian and top women’s athlete. To their likely dispair, however, Auburn’s other nomination comes at the brunt end of Alabama’s victory in the Iron Bowl last year, as the comeback led by Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young is nominated for best game.

Lee was phenomenal for Auburn in 2022. She received four All-American nods, was a Honda Award finalist, was crowned SEC Freshman of the Year and made the SEC’s All-Freshman team and All-SEC team. She was instrumental in propelling the Tigers to a Final Four appearance at the NCAA gymnastics championships in 2022.

The Auburn football game against Alabama, meanwhile, is probably one fans will want to forget. The Tigers led 10-0 going into the fourth quarter, but the Tide managed to find the endzone after a field goal in the dying embers of the game to bring it to overtime, where Alabama would end up defeating Auburn 24-22.

Suni Lee is expected to come back to the Plains for at least another year, and the Tigers will have an opportunity to avenge their loss from last year in Tuscaloosa this upcoming season.

Five-star gymnast commits to Auburn

Auburn receives a commitment from a five-star gymnast from the 2024 class.

Auburn Gymnastics is continuing its plan of becoming a national powerhouse in recruiting with the commitment of a 2024 prospect on Monday.

[autotag]Olivia Ahern[/autotag], a national championship qualifier from Memphis, Tenn., has announced via Instagram that she has committed to compete for Auburn.

“I am so incredibly excited to announce that I have verbally committed to Auburn University on a full athletic scholarship!” Ahern said in her post. “I am looking forward to the next chapter and the many opportunities that await.”

According to College Gym News, Ahern has impressive scores for every event, with her strong suits being beam and floor. She has a career-high score of a perfect 10 in floor, and has reached 9.8 in beam. Her highest all-around score has topped at 39.175.

With Ahern’s commitment, it will mark the fourth straight year that Auburn has received a pledge from a five-star gymnast. Auburn gymnast [autotag]Suni Lee[/autotag] (2021), as well as commit’s [autotag]Olivia Greaves[/autotag] (2022) and [autotag]Julianne Huff[/autotag] (2023) have also been given a five-star rating from College Gym News.

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Smith details ‘incredible opportunity’ to lead Clemson gymnastics

Amy Smith had a good thing going across the country. Previously the head gymnastics coach at Utah State, Smith most recently led the Aggies to consecutive top-25 finishes, the first time the program had accomplished that feat since 1998-99. They …

Amy Smith had a good thing going across the country.

Previously the head gymnastics coach at Utah State, Smith most recently led the Aggies to consecutive top-25 finishes, the first time the program had accomplished that feat since 1998-99. They posted their highest team score ever at an NCAA regional meet earlier this year and won the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference championship, the program’s first conference title since 2005.

But Smith said she’s always enjoyed doing things in her career that have never been done before. So a month after Utah State’s 2022 season ended in March, Smith accepted the job at Clemson, which has never competed in the sport. That will start happening during the 2023-24 academic year.

“When this opportunity presented itself and I started to look into it and saw the amazing athletic tradition, the amazing academics and then when I actually got out here and saw the area, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Smith said. “This is just an incredible opportunity. So I couldn’t pass it up.”

Smith is off and running on her new job. She’s already hired her associate head coach, Erik Lewis, and recently signed six transfers as part of Clemson’s first-ever gymnastics recruiting class, though she didn’t have to look far for any of them. All either coached with or competed for Smith at Utah State this past season.

As for how Smith is trying to sell recruits she’s not so familiar with on a startup program in the future, she said her message is simple.

“You look at this rich athletic tradition, incredible academics and then this beautiful area of South Carolina. And how exciting to make history,” Smith said. “This class that just signed? They’re already making history, and to be able to pave the way and be trailblazers on this, that’s not for everybody. But I’m going to find those kids that that excites them and they want to be a part of this. I literally get chills because I just love the icdea and the concept of that.”

Yet Smith doesn’t believe it’s going to take the Tigers all that long to become competitive thanks to the transfer portal. Having those more experienced gymnasts that followed her from Utah State, she said, should help expedite that process.

“I’ve got a senior, I’ve got a junior, and I’ve got four sophomores, so that really helps my roster in terms of padding it and getting a really nice supporting cast for them to work with,” Smith said. “On top of that, too, what I’m really excited about with them coming is expediting the culture. Those six know exactly what myself and associate head coach Erik Lewis (expect) and what goes and what doesn’t go.”

Smith said she hopes other schools that don’t currently have a gymnastics program follow Clemson’s lead in changing that. 

“It’s so exciting to go to a meet,” Smith said. “It’s not like the Olympics where it’s all quiet. It is loud, it is high-energy, and it is an experience. I’m so excited to bring that to Littlejohn (Coliseum), sell out and get those Clemson fans in there. It’s so different in person to watch it. And the athletes are phenomenal. What they do is just absolutely incredible.”

This Clemson coach is thankful for transfer portal

The NCAA’s one-time transfer rule has brought with it varying opinions from coaches and administrators amid the changing landscape of college athletics, but one coach in charge of starting a program at Clemson is grateful it’s around. College …

The NCAA’s one-time transfer rule has brought with it varying opinions from coaches and administrators amid the changing landscape of college athletics, but one coach in charge of starting a program at Clemson is grateful it’s around.

College sports’ governing body adopted new legislation in April 2021 allowing student-athletes to transfer to another four-year school and be immediately eligible once during their collegiate careers. Previous transfer rules required athletes to sit out a year before being eligible for competition at their new school.

Amy Smith is glad that’s no longer the case. Smith was hired in April as the first-ever coach of Clemson’s women’s gymnastics program, which will begin competing during the 2023-24 academic year. When that time comes, Smith said the transfer rule will help her piece together the kind of roster that can compete immediately.

“I think if this opportunity would have presented itself five years ago, it would’ve been a different story,” Smith recently told The Clemson Insider. “I couldn’t say we’re going to come out of the gates really strong, and I really do feel like we can come out of the gates strong due to the transfer portal.”

Smith has already benefited from the portal by bringing in some gymnasts she’s familiar with. Previously the head coach at Utah State for five seasons, Smith recently inked her inaugural signing class at Clemson, which consisted of six transfers that competed for her last season at USU.

The portal could lead to even more experienced gymnasts who may be searching for a fresh start elsewhere to give Clemson a look. Smith said that’s made her more confident in her program’s potential early as she puts together her first roster.

“Having the foundation of those six (signees), and other programs having teams that have large rosters due to COVID,” Smith said. “That’s kind of a little sliver lining of COVID, too, is kind of seeing really talented gymnasts that aren’t getting to compete on other teams that would come into the portal and be like, ‘Oh man, I could come into Clemson in ‘24 and get out of the gates really strong.’

“Five years ago, the way recruiting was, we were recruiting eighth-graders, so the landscape of coming into this was completely bare. And that’s not the case now.”

Photo courtesy of Clemson Athletics

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Look: Auburn coaches speak at AMBUSH Huntsville

Auburn’s coaches had plenty of good news to talk about at AMBUSH Huntsville.

Auburn’s coaches have been across the state of Alabama to speak at this year’s AMBUSH alumni tour. The latest stop was in Huntsville, Alabama on May 5, and there were several notable speakers.

[autotag]Bryan Harsin[/autotag] and [autotag]Bruce Pearl[/autotag] both made their normal appearances and addressed the sold-out crowd. However, they were joined by gymnastics coach [autotag]Jeff Graba[/autotag], Director of Athletics Allen Greene, and incoming president Chris Roberts

All three coaches have received positive news about their teams recently. Pearl and the basketball team landed transfer Johni Broom, one of the best players to enter the portal this offseason. Harsin addressed a weakness at wide receiver with the addition of Miami transfer Dazalin Worsham.

Graba has had the best week out of them all though. He announced that superstar Suni Lee is planning to return for next season during the event and Friday morning Derrian Gobourne announced she would be returning for her super-senior season.

It is a good time to be an Auburn fan as it shows it truly is an “everything school.” Here are the best photos from the event on Thursday.

Auburn gymnastics phenom Suni Lee expected to return

It’s looking like the Tigers will get their star all-around gymnast back.

It’s looking like the Tigers’ gymnastics team could retain its key piece.

Head coach [autotag]Jeff Graba[/autotag] told Auburn alumni on Thursday night that gold medal Olympian and Auburn all-around star [autotag]Sunisa Lee[/autotag] told him she intends to, at the moment, return to the Plains for her second season of college gymnastics according to a report by the Montgomery Advertiser.

Lee’s decision comes in part due to preparation for the 2024 Olympics and whether she wanted to commit to both elite gymnastics and collegiate gymnastics. According to Graba, Lee currently believes that she can do both at the moment.

“NCAA gymnastics has been good for her in a lot of ways,” Graba said before an Auburn alumni event. “But she’s going to have to balance it out. She’s going to have to make decisions in the future, but right now the decision is: ‘I think I can still do both.’ So I think that’s where we are.”

Lee’s return to Auburn would be big to Auburn gymnastics. The Tigers posted a 1-7 record in 2021 and missed out on NCAAs without Lee, but when she arrived at the Plains, she helped propel Auburn to a 22-8-1 record and an appearance in the NCAA gymnastics Final Four.

With senior Derrian Gobourne returning to the team as well, Graba has a squad that looks primed to return to the Final Four for the 2023 season. The 2023 gymnastics season should begin in the first week of January.

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ESPN and University of Oklahoma announce multi-year agreement to launch ‘SoonerVision’ on ESPN+

The University of Oklahoma and ESPN have reached an agreement on a new partnership, which will launch “SoonerVision” for on the streaming platform ESPN+.

The college athletics landscape is forever changing and shifting in many ways from conference realignment to NIL to media rights.

The Oklahoma Sooners have been directly affected by all three in recent years and now they get to be a part of it once again.

After years with Bally Sports, the Sooners will enter a multi-year agreement with ESPN+ with an Oklahoma specific channel called “SoonerVision.”

The partnership with ESPN+ is the most expansive of its kind for a university athletics program. Oklahoma athletic director and Vice President Joe Castiglione in a release by the official athletics website says, “SoonerVision on ESPN+ builds upon our previous media successes by offering over 1,000 hours annually of live OU sports events and other programming to ESPN+’s growing subscriber base of more than 21.3 million. As a result, OU fans will now have an easily accessible year-round media home on all their screens.”

In many ways, it sets the stage for Oklahoma as it will make its way to the SEC in the coming years and become a part of the SEC Network also tied in a tight partnership with ESPN.

The infamous Oklahoma pay-per-view football game that’s become an annual occurrence will be no longer as that game likely slots into the “one regular season OU football game” category for those who carry an ESPN+ subscription.

The spring football game will also be accessible via ESPN+. The rest of Oklahoma’s football games will still be found on the ESPN family of networks or on Fox.

Oklahoma basketball will have 25 or more games found on ESPN+ along with other Olympic sports live games like track and field and more.

An ESPN+ subscription also includes access to professional sports like MLB, NHL, LaLiga, Bundesliga, and many other college sports competitions.

The deal allows the Sooner fans access to content from years past and also grants access to OU’s pro day, pregame shows, and a more immersive Sooner experience across the board.

Beginning in August, the content will be available on ESPN+ via the “SoonerVision” landing page, with live events beginning at the start of the fall athletics season.

Pricing for ESPN+ is $6.99 a month (or $69.99 per year) at ESPN.com, ESPNplus.com, or on the ESPN App (mobile and connected devices). It is also available as part of The Disney Bundle that gives subscribers access to Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu for $13.99/month (Hulu w/ads) or $19.99/month (Hulu w/o ads). Subscribers to Hulu + Live TV also receive ESPN+ at no additional cost.

Contact/Follow us @SoonersWire on Twitter, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Oklahoma news, notes, and opinions. Let us know your thoughts, comment on this story below. Join the conversation today.

Neff discusses newest athletic facility projects

Construction is imminent on a pair of on-campus facilities that are designed to enhance the student-athlete experience at Clemson. A 100-yard wellness center and the Clemson Athletic Branding institute are being built in and around the Allen N. …

Construction is imminent on a pair of on-campus facilities that are designed to enhance the student-athlete experience at Clemson.

A 100-yard wellness center and the Clemson Athletic Branding institute are being built in and around the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex. Clemson athletic director Graham Neff told The Clemson Insider that both projects, which have a price tag of $5 million each, are expected to be completed sometime this fall.

Neff said the wellness center, which is an add-on to the football complex, has already started construction.

“It’s an expansion of the training room and some of our applied science and then just growth of those services from a health and wellness standpoint,” Neff said.

The athletic branding institute, which will total more than 12,000 square feet, is being built in conjunction with REIGN, the school’s multi-faceted name, image and likeness (NIL) program. When it officially announced the program last month, Clemson touted itself as the “first athletics program in the nation” to dedicate a space solely to the education and development of athletes’ NIL activity.

Neff acknowledged there’s a lot of focus on football with the facility, which is being constructed adjacent to the football team’s indoor practice facility and weight room. But Neff said the space will also include a photo shoot area, audio studio and media work room in addition to “just some swing space and growth space for future needs of NIL” that all athletes will be able to access.

Neff said the idea of becoming the first athletic department to have a dedicated NIL space happened somewhat by accident. The department, he explained, was in the midst of a fundraising campaign for facility enhancements last summer when the NCAA introduced an interim policy that made NIL profits legal for college athletes. Many states, including South Carolina, followed with their own NIL bylaws soon thereafter.

“July 1 (of 2021) was when NIL was allowable from an NCAA standpoint, so it became one of those where it was like, ‘Gosh, we have an opportunity here to be intentional and focused on what that facility can be right when everyone is trying to figure that out,’” Neff said. “It just kind of evolved.

“There’s other utility with it. There’s an NFL locker room for former players. … We just kind of grew it into having some use for branding and creative studio there that speaks to an NIL standpoint. It just kind of all came to a head with a need for space from a football standpoint, the fundraising aspect of it and then NIL going into effect and how we could be leaders and the first to have bricks and mortar and dedicated space to that from an NIL standpoint.”

Later this year, Clemson will begin expanding the facilities for rowing, lacrosse and gymnastics. Neff said construction on those $27.5-million projects will continue throughout most of next year. The school announced the addition of lacrosse and gymnastics as women’s sports last year.

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