FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) This is why Sunisa Lee made her promise and arrived at Auburn. And why Trinity Thomas left the country.
To compete on the podium with their sport stopping to watch. To honor their teammates under the lights. To gain a chance to win another.
On Thursday night, the two gymnastics stars examined every box in the NCAA women's team semifinals.
Auburn finished second to Florida in the second semifinal to qualify for Saturday's final four, thanks to Lee, the first Olympic champion to compete collegiately.
Thomas clinches the all-around championship by completing a showtopping performance with a perfect 10 on floor exercise as the Gators earn the right to join Lee and the Tigers as well as Oklahoma and Utah for a national championship.
Thomas, who finished with a total of 39.8125 on Saturday afternoon, is ahead of Lee at 39.675 and Florida teammate Megan Skaggs at 39.6625. "I've been working through this since I got to school, and just having a few disappointments, you know, I kept fighting. And finally doing it this time is literally a blessing."
Even if Thomas didn't initially know about her 10 on floor the 11th perfect score she's collected this season, ranking third in the country made her the fourth Gator to win the all-around in the last decade. She was so passionate about making sure Florida made it to the team final, but she didn't really care about where she was in the overall standings until the encounter ended.
"I asked my teammates 'do you know what the whole-around was?" Thomas said with a laugh. "So, I had no clue.'
Thomas decided to contact Savannah Schoenherr, the local calculator used by the team. When Schoenherr informed her longtime teammate it was probably her, Thomas let out a semi-surprised "oh."
Consider this a testament to Thomas' ability to stay in the moment.
When Florida was on the edge of the bars, Thomas waited ten long minutes before it was fixed. She passed the time by cracking jokes. She gave the 9.9750, the best of the day.
"I'm so happy it was Trinity that had to wait," says Florida coach Jenny Rowland. "If it was going to be somebody, Trinity is great one to be able to shake it off and move it back and forth, and increase her game."
Lee gets the same message.
She had a successful career in Tokyo, becoming the fifth American woman to achieve gold in the all-around. Even if her celebrity caused outsized expectations, she admitted to feeling irritated on Thursday before receiving a pep talk from Olympic teammate Jordan Chiles.
Chiles' advice was simple: try to make certain this is supposed to be fun.
"I think (after that) I took the pressure off of myself, and I just went out there and enjoyed it," Lee said, who won the beam championship and was also runner-up against Thomas in the all-around.
Lee was open to her teammates after her hectic schedule served as the trigger for the exclamation process that pushed Auburn to the finals.
Chiles wasn't the only one to get out pep discussions earlier in the day. Oklahoma scored a team score of 198.112, the best of the day. The statement comes a day after receiving a pep talk from former Oklahoma star and current Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
On Wednesday night, the Sooners met with Mayfield, who won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma in 2017, and asked them to "feel fearful" as the program hopes to win its fourth title since 2016.
Oklahoma was placed in front during the second rotation, utilizing a stellar set on uneven bars to tie the Utes into the first place. The set included a 9.887 from Olivia Trautman, who was competing in the event for the first time this season due to a knee injury.
"Mayfield" advised us to do our homework and believe in ourselves, according to Trautman.
Utah took the finals for the fourth time in five championships, finishing the event with a rock-solid beam set. The Utes' score of 49.600 was the highest in the event during the first semifinal, preventing Alabama or Minnesota from closing the gap.
Michigan's bid for a repeat ended during the third rotation of the second session, where a wobbly set on uneven bars sent the Wolverines crashing down the rankings to fourth place.
In Oklahoma, Florida, and Utah, familiar faces will be shown. Lee's arrival encouraged the Tigers to take on a cool edge, which was the plan all along when she stuck with her desire to compete for Auburn.
Lee's desire to return to elite competition in preparation for the 2024 Olympics is unquestionable. This is a process that might begin sooner rather than later, making her a gymnastics equivalent of "one and done."
The decision will not be made until after the season, a season in which the audience will meet again.
Lee said that he is very proud of him.
Will Graves, The Associated Press, is the subject of a press release.