No. 6 Gymnastics Opens 2023 Season In Salt Lake City
SALT LAKE CITY – The No. 6 LSU Gymnastics team is set to open the 2023 season against No. 3 Utah on Friday, January 6, at 8 p.m. CT in Jon M. Huntsman Center.
The top-10 matchup between the Tigers and the Utes will be televised on ESPN2 with Bart Conner on the play-by-play call and Kathy Johnson Clarke as the analyst. Sam Peszek will be reporting from inside Huntsman Center. Introductions are set to begin at 7:45 p.m. CT with the first vault leading off at 8:05 p.m. CT.
“This meet is about us,” said head coach Jay Clark. “We need to get our baseline, our starting point, and start to define what the make-up and mindset of this team is going to be. Nothing more, nothing less.”
The season opener in Salt Lake City will be the first time LSU opens their season on the road in 11 years, the last time being when the Tigers opened the 2012 season at the Cancun Classic.
The No. 6 preseason ranked Tigers will be looking for their first win against Utah in the regular season inside Huntsman Center on Friday night. The preseason ranking marked the 11th-straight season the team was ranked in the top-10 and the 26th consecutive season that the Tigers were placed in the top- 25.
LSU has won its past 10 season openers and will look to continue that streak.
The roster is composed of three freshmen, four sophomores, five juniors, six seniors and one graduate transfer. Seniors Kiya Johnson, Kai Rivers, Alyona Shchennikova, Kamryn Ryan, Lexi Nibbs and Maddie Rau return for their final season in the Purple and Gold.
The program returns experienced routines to the lineup with All-Americans Johnson, Shchennikova and Haleigh Bryant. All three are expected to compete in the all-around on Friday night along with sophomore Aleah Finnegan.
Johnson, an eight-time All-American, owns honors on all four events as well as the all around. The Texas native was the SEC Specialist of the Year and Floor Champion in 2021.
Shchennikova, a two-time All-American on the vault and uneven bars exercises, has been consistent throughout fall training and is on track to make her final season her best yet.
Elena Arenas is another gymnast who has shown consistency throughout her career and in fall training. The junior from Athens, Georgia, won the SEC vault title in 2021 and is expected to compete on vault and uneven bars against Utah. Arenas provides depth on all four events and could make an appearance as an all-arounder this season.
An eight-time All-American, Bryant’s front handspring-front pike half is considered to be one of the best vault’s in collegiate gymnastics. The junior finished the 2022 regular season as the No. 3 vaulter in all of NCAA Gymnastics.
Bryant and Johnson each recorded multiple perfect scores in 2022. All three of Bryant’s perfect 10’s have come on vault with the first against Auburn at home, the second on the road at Missouri and then in the regular season finale against Utah. The junior owns five career perfect scores, all being on vault. Johnson recorded two perfect scores on beam and floor last season, moving her career total to seven and is tied for the fourth-most perfect 10s in program history.
Rivers made her return to the lineup in 2022 after dealing with an Achilles injury. After a battle with injury throughout her career, she is expected to lead the Tigers off on balance beam this season. The senior provides an important role on the squad as a veteran leader and voice.
A native of Gainesville, Virginia, Cammy Hall transferred to LSU from Utah for her fifth-year. Hall suffered an Achilles injury during fall training and is out for the season, but will continue to have an important role on the squad.
Sophomores KJ Johnson and Finnegan are prepared to make an immediate impact this year after an impressive freshman season in 2022. Tori Tatum has the potential to make her debut on the uneven bars and vault exercises after suffering from an injury last year.
Freshman Ashley Cowan and Bryce Wilson also have the potential to break a lineup this year. Cowan, a native of Hillsborough, North Carolina, has been training the uneven bars. Wilson, a native of Lake Charles, Louisiana, has the potential to make an appearance in the vault and balance beam lineups. The two competed at the squad’s Gym 101 showcase in December and are ready to make their collegiate debut.
Fans can follow the Tigers on the team’s social media channels @LSUgym on Instagram and Twitter and www.Facebook.com/lsugym.