Gymnastics Competes For Fifth SEC Title On Saturday In Duluth
DULUTH, Georgia – The sixth-ranked LSU gymnastics team (8-5, 4-3 SEC) will compete for the program’s fifth Southeastern Conference title in the second session of the SEC Championships at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 18, in Gas South Arena.
“We have to approach this meet the same way that we’ve approached all season. This team has bought into the message and I’m proud of what they’ve done so far,” said head coach Jay Clark. “They’re very tenacious and have a fighter mentality. This is just another opportunity to go measure ourselves against everyone else in the conference at a neutral site. I love what this team has done and now I’m challenging them to approach this meet the same and stay our course. Let’s keep climbing.”
The conference championships will be televised live on SEC Network with Bart Conner, Kathy Johnson Clarke and Sam Peszek on the call. There will also be event-specific streams available on SEC Network Plus and the ESPN app.
The squad earned the second seed and will compete against top-seeded Florida, third seeded Kentucky and fourth seeded Alabama in the evening session. The Tigers will start the competition on bars and move to beam, floor and wrap up on vault.
This will be the final meet for the Tigers to improve their NQS before the NCAA bracket is revealed on Monday.
Streaming and live stats of the meet will be available on lsusports.net.
SEC Championships History
The Tigers earned the second seed at Saturday’s meet and will compete against seven teams for the top spot in the most difficult conference in the country. All eight SEC teams are ranked in the top-20 and four of them are amongst the top-10 teams in the nation.
The draw for the SEC Championships is determined by each team’s national qualifying score (NQS) ranking. As the second-ranked team in the SEC and No. 6 team in the nation, LSU will start on bars. No. 1 Florida will start on vault, No. 3 Kentucky will start on floor and No. 4 Alabama will start on beam.
The program won three straight SEC Championships from 2017-2019 and continues to be a top team in the most difficult conference in the country. The Tigers will look to bring home the program’s fifth conference title on Saturday and first since 2019.
LSU has finished in the top two at the SEC Championships 10 times with four victories in the program’s history. Here is a breakdown of LSU’s finishes at the SEC Championship:
1st Place – 4 times (1981, 2017, 2018, 2019); 2nd Place – 6 (1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2015, 2021); 3rd Place – 10 (1982, 1983, 1991, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2004, 2013, 2014, 2016); 4th Place – 17 (1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012); 5th Place – 4 (1992, 1996, 2011, 2022); 6th Place – 0; 7th Place – 0; 8th Place – 0
A total of 25 LSU gymnasts have combined to win 47 SEC titles since 1981. The program has also recorded 98 All-SEC honors amongst 44 gymnasts.
Last Time On The Floor
No. 6 LSU defeated West Virginia in the regular season finale with a score of 198.025-196.450 inside the PMAC last Friday. The Tigers defended their home and held their undefeated record against the Mountaineers.
The victory was highlighted by junior Haleigh Bryant’s historical performance as she recorded three 10’s on the night, becoming the first LSU gymnast to record three perfect scores in a single meet and only the fifth gymnast in all of NCAA Gymnastics to record such an achievement.
Bryant now owns 10 career perfect scores to place her to the top for most in program history. In the Tigers competition against West Virginia, she recorded her first career perfect scores on bars and floor and eighth on vault to move her total to 10 (8 VT, 1 UB, 1 FX).
The junior also recorded a career high all-around score of 39.875, which ties her at the top with April Burkholder for highest all-around score in program history. The junior took the win on vault, bars, floor and the all-around against West Virginia to move her total to 26 titles on the year: three on bars, three on beam, one on floor and nine on vault and the all-around.
Alyona Shchennikova, Elena Arenas and Ashley Cowan also posted career high scores against West Virginia. Shchennikova and Arenas both posted career highs on floor with their scores of 9.975 and 9.925 while Cowan earned a career high 9.900 in her PMAC debut and third appearance on bars this season.
Aleah Finnegan took the beam title with her score of 9.975 on the night to earn her 14th title this year and sixth on beam.
Perfect Scores In 2023
Bryant has recorded five perfect scores in 2023 to move her career total to 10. The junior found perfection on vault this season against Missouri, Alabama and West Virginia and now owns eight 10’s on the event. She also found perfection on bars and floor against West Virginia to record her first perfect 10’s on the events.
Finnegan recorded four straight 10’s in four meets for the Tigers to find perfection in all of February. The sophomore’s first career perfect score came on floor against Georgia on February 3rd, followed by a 10.00 on vault at Auburn. She found her first perfect score on beam and third in her career against the Gators. Her second perfect score on floor this year and fourth in her career came at Alabama.
Both will look to be the first gymnasts in LSU history to earn a perfect score across all four events.
The Tigers have notched four weekly conference honors in 2023. Bryant earned the first conference award for the Tigers this season as she was named SEC Co-Gymnast of the Week on January 24. Against Missouri, she earned a perfect 10.00 on vault and scores of 9.900+ on all four events.
The junior notched her second award on March 1 after her career high performance at Alabama, where she recorded her seventh career perfect 10.00 and a career high 39.800 in the all-around in Tuscaloosa.
KJ Johnson earned her first honor as she was named SEC Specialist of the Week on February 7 for her performance against Georgia. The sophomore earned a 9.875 on vault and matched her career high on floor with a 9.950 against the Bulldogs.
Bryant earned her third conference honor this season and fourth in her career after being named Gymnast of the Week for the second consecutive week on March 7. She won the all-around at the Podium Challenge with her score of 39.700 to help lead the Tigers to victory.
After her record-breaking performance against West Virginia, Bryant notched her fourth Gymnast of the Week honor on March 14 for the third consecutive week.
Bryant and Finnegan are expected to be mainstays in the all-around as the team prepares to take on Florida, Kentucky and Alabama in the conference championships. Arenas and Shchennikova could also appear in the all-around for the Tigers on Saturday.
An eight-time All-American, Bryant has led the Tigers this season and has earned 26 titles on the year. She owns 17 all-around titles to place at sixth for career-best in LSU history and her 56 career titles rank tenth in program history for most individual titles.
Bryant’s front handspring-front pike half is considered to be one of the best vaults in all of NCAA gymnastics as she ranks the No. 1 vaulter in the nation. Bryant owns season highs of 9.950 on beam and perfect 10’s on vault, bars and floor. Her career high 39.875 in the all-around came in the squad’s last meet against West Virginia.
Finnegan owns a career high score of 39.800 in the all-around, which she recorded at Auburn. After recording four perfect 10’s in four straight meets, the sophomore now owns perfect scores on floor, vault, and beam and a career high of 9.925 on bars.
Arenas has been a consistent contender in the vault, bars and beam lineups. The junior from Athens, Georgia, won the SEC vault title in 2021 and owns a season-high score of 9.925 on the event. She also recorded a career high of 9.925 on beam at Kentucky and 9.900 on bars against Florida. She made her first appearance on floor this season against Florida and earned a career high score of 9.875 at the Podium Challenge.
Shchennikova competed in the all-around for the first time this season against Missouri and matched her career high 39.525 against Auburn. The senior owns season highs of 9.925 on vault, 9.875 on bars, 9.800 on beam and 9.975 on floor.
Junior Chase Brock made her vault and floor debuts against Oklahoma and has been continually making her mark in the lineups. After her career night against Alabama, she now owns highs of 9.975 on vault and 9.925 on floor, which she also matched at the Podium Challenge.
Sierra Ballard continues to bring the energy to the floor leadoff spot and owns a season high of 9.925 on the event. The Louisiana native debuted on beam against Oklahoma and now owns a career high of 9.925 after her performance at Alabama.
A native of Dallas, Texas, KJ Johnson owns season high scores of 9.950 on floor and vault. Johnson also recorded a career high 9.875 in only her third beam appearance against Florida.
Tori Tatum, a sophomore from Chanhassen, Minnesota, made her debut on bars against Oklahoma after suffering from an injury last year. She now owns a career high 9.900 after her performance against Missouri and matched her career high against Florida, Alabama and West Virginia.
A consistent bars leadoff, Alexis Jeffrey owns a career high of 9.925 on bars and made her beam and floor debuts in Tuscaloosa. The sophomore now owns highs of 9.900 on beam and 9.750 on floor.
Freshmen Ashley Cowan and Bryce Wilson have stepped up in only their first season with their Tigers. Cowan made her collegiate debut on bars at Auburn and now owns a career high 9.900 after her routine against West Virginia. Wilson made her debut on beam against Utah and her vault debut at Alabama. She now owns career highs of 9.850 on beam and 9.875 on vault.
Fans can follow the Tigers on the team’s social media channels @LSUgym on Instagram and Twitter and www.Facebook.com/lsugym.
Week 10 Rankings
The Tigers placed in the top-10 for the eighth consecutive week in the week 10 Road To National rankings following the team’s 198.025-196.450 victory over West Virginia on Friday night.
LSU owns an NQS of 197.780, which is the average of a team’s top six scores, three of which must be away and the highest score dropped. The Tigers six scores are 198.100, 198.025 and 197.700 from home meets and 197.975, 197.700 and 197.500 away from the PMAC.
With a score of 197.510 or higher at Saturday’s competition, LSU will improve its NQS. The squad also owns top-10 rankings across all four events for the second time this season as they place third on vault, fourth on floor, eighth on bars and ninth on beam.
LSU owns a NQS of 49.495 on vault, 49.415 on bars, 49.395 on beam and 49.560 on floor.
Bryant continues to be one of the top gymnasts in the nation as she ranks third in the country. The junior holds the No. 1 spot on vault with her NQS of 9.980 and also ranks in the top-25 on bars, beam and floor.
Finnegan placed fourth on beam and floor, sixth on beam and thirteenth in the all-around.
Week 10 Road To National Rankings (3/13/23)