Da Boot Sports
By: Brittney Achord
BATON ROUGE, LA: The LSU Tiger gymnastics team brought more than new faces, routines, and skills to their season opener Friday night in the PMAC. They brought victory and their 10th straight season opener win with a 196.950.
As Tiger fans welcomed the new Assistant Coaches Garrett and Courtney Griffeth, they also welcomed a powerhouse freshman. KJ Johnson highlighted her night taking 2nd on Vault and 1st on Floor with matching scores of 9.90. A great start for this new Tiger.
In a post meet interview, Head Coach Jay Clark stated, “KJ is as explosive an athlete as we have. I think tonight did a lot for her confidence. She really came through in the clutch and delivered the only 9.90 we had on Floor tonight. She was nervous going out there, so it was great to see her go out there and do what she did.”
The Tigers started out strong on Vault opening up with a team score of 49.40. Sophomore Haliegh Bryant picked up right where she left off with a dynamic 9.925 that earned her 1st place on Vault. KJ Johnson also helped the Tigers with her 9.90, along with Kai Rivers and Kiya Johnson’s matching scores of 9.875 and Aloyna Shchennikova’s score of 9.825.
Over on Bars, the Tigers kicked off the season with the highest season opening score in school history, a 49.50. Aloyna Shchennikova brought a beautiful 9.950, matching her career high and landing her first place on bars. Haleigh Bryant and Olivia Dunne would also score big for the Tigers with matching scores of 9.925. This would be a new career high for Bryant. The Tigers would also count Kai Rivers 9.875 and Kiya Johnson’s 9.825.
Unfortunately, after an injury on bars, the Tigers lost their momentum on Balance Beam scoring a 49.075. Christina Desiderio opened up with an elegant routine scoring a 9.850 for the Tigers. Alyona Shchennikova and Kiya Johnson followed with matching scores of 9.80.Reagan Campbell would put up a fighting 9.750 for the Tigers. Haleigh Bryant would finish strong for the Tigers with a 9.875, sparking a hint of hope heading to Floor.
Opening night jitters seemed to follow the Tigers to Floor as the Tigers posted a 48.975. Sarah Edwards brought joy and excitement to Tiger fans as she opened with a 9.825. KJ Johnson amped up the PMAC with an explosive 9.90. The Tigers would finish the night on Floor with a 9.775 from Elena Arenas, 9.750 from Sierra Ballard, and a 9.725 from Alyona Shchennikova. Shchennikova’s 9.725 clinched the all-around for her with a 39.30 and a victory for the Tigers.
Overall the Tigers looked great. There were many areas where nerves played a huge role, some areas where injuries took over, and a few issues just from inexperience. They will work through all the early season jitters and dominate all four events.
After the meet Head Coach Jay Clark stated, “We started out really great and had some good things going for us, but after Sami Durante went out, it broke the momentum for us. Nothing horrible went on the last two events but I thought the mentality dropped and we never got going again. I am pleased with a lot of good moments though.”
The Tigers head to Missouri for their first SEC road meet on Friday, January 14 at 7 PM CT. You can catch this match up on SEC Network+ through Watch ESPN.com and the app.
Photos By: Brittney Achord