By: Brittney Achord
Da Boot Sports!
BATON ROUGE, LA - The LSU Tiger Gymnastics team geared up ready to fight Tiger vs Tiger Friday night. It was a night dedicated to the Seniors. A senior class who has overcome so many obstacles in their four years at LSU. Physical and emotionally drained, torn but not broken. These girls have dominated every single second. It will soon be time for them to pass the torch as past gymnasts have. Each of the six seniors were honored before the night got started: Reagan Campell, Bridget Dean, Christina Desiderio, Sami Durante, Sarah Edwards, and Olivia Gunter. Also honored were last year's Senior Trio: Kennedi Edney, Ruby Harrold, and Ashlyn Kirby.
What a night for these seniors. They were reassured that the legacy of what is LSU Gymnastics will continue on. The juniors, sophomores, and freshmen proved their strength and determination. The atmosphere was absolutely electrifying, and it was not coming just from the girls. The fans showed up and showed out for these seniors. Fans who have stood by their side whether at home in the PMAC, or through the TV while on the road. Fans who have shown their love and support with each competition no matter the outcome. These six seniors will be missed and forever will they be a LSU Tiger.
Vault Amplified the Night with the Tigers First 10.0 in the 2021 Season
Starting this meet with a 49.550 was huge. It set the tone for the rest of the night and showed just how persistent this LSU Tiger gymnastics team is. First up for the Tigers, Senior Sami Durante would take the runway in the PMAC for the last time. She would electrify the PMAC with her yurchenko full scoring 9.825. Elena Arenas would carry that spark and soar with a 9.875. Senior Sarah Edwards was like the Flash down the runway, flying high in the air with her yurchenko full and a half, finishing her vault career in the PMAC with a 9.90. The energy and determination only grew stronger as Kiya Johnson hit a nearly perfect yurchenko double full scoring 9.950. The flame that was growing exploded with Haleigh Bryant’s perfect 10.0 front handspring pike half. Bryant marks the 11th LSU gymnast to score a 10.0 on the vault. After Bryant, we got to see some depth the Tigers have with an exhibition vault from Kamryn Ryan who would show how powerful she is scoring a 9.95.
Meanwhile on the uneven bars, the Missouri Tigers put up a 48.700 putting LSU in the lead going into the second rotation.
Bars Continued to Swing Their Way in the Lead
Kiya Johnson kicked things off for the Tigers with hit handstands and a stuck landing scoring a 9.85. After a fall by Chase Brock, Freshman Olivia Dunne would back her teammate up with a beautiful routine scoring 9.775. From there the Tigers only went up. Haleigh Bryant showed grace and power adding a 9.825 to the Tiger bar score. Alyona Shchennikova continued to show her consistency and beauty with a 9.90. Anchoring for the last time in the PMAC was Senior Sami Durante. With elegantly pointed toes, handstands stretched to the rafters, and a dismount that floated with grace, Durante added a 9.90 to give LSU a final 49.250 on Bars.
With Missouri’s 48.950, LSU now leads 98.80 - 97.65.
The Senior Trio Lead the Way on Balance Beam
With three seniors on the Tiger Beam Team, it was their time to shine, and they shined bright. Christina Desiderio took the lead off spot for the last time in the PMAC with grace and determination. She would start the Tigers off matching her career high 9.95. Next, Senior Sami Durante would follow Desiderio elegantly working her routine to a stuck landing and a 9.875 to add to the Tiger beam score. Haleigh Bryant made a powerful statement with persistence and a dismount that did not move adding a 9.85 for the Tigers. Adding another matched career high of 9.925, senior Bridget Dean performed her final beam routine in the PMAC with poise and precision. The sophomore duo Kiya Johnson and Alyona Shchennikova closed out balance beam for the Tigers with matching 9.825 scores. LSU put up a 49.425 on the balance beam maintaining their lead with a 148.225.
Over on floor, the Missouri Tiger’s put up a 49.10 bringing their running total to a 146.75.
LSU Danced and Flipped Their Way to Perfection on Floor
What a way to end this final night in the PMAC for the 2021 season. While senior Christina Desiderio’s 9.85 score would not be needed, her presence, statement, and energy definitely set the tone. Alyona Shchennikova continued to make her mark in the all-around with a dynamic floor score of 9.875. From there LSU would not count anything lower than a 9.90. Freshman Sierra Ballard would get the PMAC on their feet matching her career high of 9.925. Senior Sarah Edwards performed her final floor routine in the PMAC with energy and a smile that had the PMAC bursting at the seams. Edwards would add a 9.90 to the Tiger floor score. The freshman/sophomore dynamic duo has not given the one-two punch since January 15 and what a punch they gave. Up first, Haleigh Bryant dominated her tumbling, danced gracefully, and added a 9.95 score to the Tiger floor score. For the first time since January, Kiya Johnson anchored on the floor and had the crowd on their feet from start to finish. As Johnson landed her final tumbling pass like a statue, the roof exploded as 10.0 flashed from the judges tables. This would finish the Tigers with a 49.650 on floor.
Over on the balance beam, the Missouri Tigers put up an impressive 49.425.
The No. 3 LSU Tigers declared victory over the Missouri Tigers with a score of 197.875 to 196.175. This brings LSU to 5-3 overall and 4-3 in the conference. LSU will get a week off to rest and prepare for the SEC Championship in Huntsville, Alabama on March 20. LSU will take the No. 2 seed behind No. 1 Florida.