The Perfect Comeback Earned the Tigers the Floor Title, Two Vault Titles, and 2nd Place in the SEC Championship with a 197.775.
By: Brittney Achord
Da Boot Sports!
HUNTSVILLE, AL - Two perfect scores, three event titles, and the third highest score in school history earned the LSU Tiger Gymnastics team 2nd place last night at the SEC Championships. While the Tigers faced some nerves the first two rotations, they made the comeback of the season. Unfortunately, they would fall short behind Alabama 197.775 - 197.875.
Kyia Johnson wore her crown last night as it gleamed in the arena lights coming off the floor. Johnson joined Sarah Finnegan and Assistant Coach Ashleigh Gnat in the list of LSU gymnasts to earn a perfect 10 in the SEC Championships. This was Johnson’s third career 10 on the floor, fifth overall, and the 10th 10.0 earned in the SEC Championships.
Johnson was not alone last night as two freshmen came in like fireworks, making an explosive statement that these Tigers were not backing down, and what a statement they made. Haleigh Bryant and Elena Arenas added their names to the list of Tigers who earned vault titles. Arenas would score her first perfect score of a 9.95 and Bryant was nearly perfect with a 9.95 taking the 13th and 14th vault titles for LSU.
In the all-around, Johnson came in second with a 39.625 and Bryant in sixth with a 39.450.
Post meet, head coach Jay Clark stated, “I am very proud of this team as a whole. I am proud of what they did tonight. They never lost their focus or got distracted. We showed a lot of guts and fought until the very end. They stayed true to everything we wanted them to be. I am pleased with where they are in their growth. We know where we can improve and we will keep grinding and get better. Our big goals are still out there.”
The Tigers Hit Handstands and a Solid 49.350 on Uneven Bars to Start the Night
Kyia Johnson started strong swinging with the ferocity that she has shown all season as she put up a 9.875 for the Tigers. Chase Brock showed determination as she put up a 9.825 for the Tigers. Olivia Dunne stepped up to the bars with a purpose and fulfilled it adding a 9.90 to the Tigers bar score. Alyona Shchnnikova took to the bars next with unshakeable handstands and high flying releases adding a 9.85 to the Tigers bar score. Anchoring for the Tigers, Sami Durante showed her grace, beauty, and experience finishing off the bar rotation with a 9.90. The Tigers made a huge statement with their opening 49.350.
The Tigers Persevered Through Nerves with a 49.300 on the Balance Beam
The Tigers were tied for second going into the second rotation. Christiana Desiderio got things started with a solid 9.80. Up next, Sami Durante and Bridget Dean followed with aggressive elegance that added matching scores of 9.875 for the Tigers beam team. Kyia Johnson continued to show strength and consistency adding a 9.90 beam score for the Tigers. Back in the anchor spot for the Tigers, Reagan Campbell finished with a strong 9.85. The Tigers scored a 49.300 on the balance beam, trailing in second place with a 98.650 to Alabama’s 99.000 going into the third rotation.
The Perfect Comeback on Floor with a 49.500
Trailing by 0.35 going into Floor, the Tigers knew they had to make a statement. With the LSU Fight song blaring in the arena, the girls got motivated and the Tiger fans that filled the arena joined in with their excitement. Up first for the Tigers, Christina Desiderio set the stage with a fierce 9.85. Alyona Shchnnikova followed and built on that energy as she put up a huge 9.925 for the Tigers on floor. Sierra Ballard brought her energy and fight to the floor adding a 9.80 to the Tiger Floor score. Haleigh Bryant stepped out onto the floor with determination and drive scoring a 9.925 for the Tigers. All eyes were on Kyia Johnson as she anchored on the floor for the Tigers. Johnson exploded the arena with the comeback of the season scoring a perfect 10.0. With a 49.500 on floor, the Tigers now trail only by 0.275 with a 148.150 behind Alabama’s 148.425.
Continued Perfection, Closing the Gap, and Clenching Vault Titles to Finish the Night
Sami Durante not only brought her senior leadership in the fourth and final rotation, but she amplified the Tigers opening with a near perfect 9.90 yurchenko full. Alyona Shchennikoa continued to show how determined these Tigers were with another nearly perfect score of 9.925. Elena Arenas stepped up big for the Tigers, ran with a purpose, exploded off the vault, and landed with perfection adding a perfect 9.95 to the Tiger Vault score with her yurchenko full. Sarah Edwards brought all her energy to the vault matching Durante’s 9.90. Haleigh Bryant matched Arena's explosive determination and score of 9.95, both clenching the vault title for the Tigers.
While the Tigers put up a relentless fight on vault with a 49.625, a one tenth gap remained as Alabama took first place at the SEC Championships 197.875 to LSU’s 197.775. The Tigers may have fallen short by one tenth, but they gained so much more than a SEC title. With seniors and juniors who have only experienced this championship one or two times, and sophomores and freshmen being here for the first time, these Tigers showed just how fierce they are and how dangerous they can be. The Tigers walked away with the floor title, two vault titles, and a raging roar from within their souls heading into the Regional Championship meet April 2nd and 3rd.
The Tigers head back to Baton Rouge where they await the announcement of their NCAA Regional destination. NCAA Regional locations will be announced Monday, March 22 and these Tigers are ready.