Gymnastics Begins NCAA Championships Quest On Thursday
FORT WORTH, Texas – The sixth-ranked LSU gymnastics team marks their 32nd NCAA Championship appearance as they are set to compete in session one of the semifinals on Thursday, April 13, at 2 p.m. CT in Dickies Arena.
“This team has been so gritty this entire year. They keep doing what they have to do,” said head coach Jay Clark. “I’m just so proud of this team and enjoying the ride. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose. They’re leaving their mark on this program regardless of outcome.”
LSU will compete against No. 2 Florida, No. 7 California and No. 13 Denver in the first session of the semifinals on Thursday. The Tigers will begin the meet on beam and rotate to floor and vault and before finishing on bars. Stanford individual qualifier, Chloe Widner, will also rotate with the squad and compete in the all-around.
The second session of the semifinals features No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 4 UCLA, No. 5 Utah and No. 9 Kentucky following the first session at 8 p.m. CT. The top two teams from both semifinal sessions will advance to the NCAA Championship on Saturday, April 15, at 3 p.m. CT on ABC.
Both semifinal sessions will be streamed on ESPN2 with Bart Conner and Kathy Johnson Clarke on the call. Sam Peszek will be the on-site reporter. There will be additional streams of individual apparatuses available on ESPN Plus.
ESPN+: Broadcast | Vault | Bars | Beam | Floor | Multiview
Individual event and all-around national champions will also be determined following the semifinals competitions.
Streaming and live stats of the meet will be available on LSUsports.net.
NCAA Championships History
The Tigers began the postseason at the Denver regional to mark the squad’s 38th straight appearance in the NCAA postseason and 40th overall appearance for the Tigers. With the team advancing out of regionals, LSU marked their 32nd NCAA Championships appearance.
LSU has a total of 16 individual national titles across 10 gymnasts in program history. Junior Haleigh Bryant was named the NCAA vault champion in 2021 and will look for her second title this year.
Last Time On The Floor
The Tigers booked their ticket to the 2023 NCAA Championships after advancing out of the NCAA Denver Regional Final with their final score of 197.750 in Magness Arena.
No. 14 Denver took the regional title while LSU and Michigan finished the meet tied at second. In order to determine who would advance, the sixth score from each rotation was used to break the tie between the Tigers and the Wolverines. After including all six scores from both teams, the Tigers came out on top with a score of 237.050-235.725.
LSU started off hot on vault with a score of 49.375 in the first rotation. Elena Arenas led off with a strong 9.900 to set the tone. Alyona Shchennikova scored a 9.825 in the second spot. Chase Brock posted another 9.900 and Aleah Finnegan followed with a 9.850. In her first appearance back in the lineup since the Florida meet, KJ Johnson earned a 9.850. Haleigh Bryant anchored with a 9.875.
The bars squad set a new LSU regional record score and a season high score of 49.525 in the second rotation. Alexis Jeffrey recorded a career high 9.950 in the leadoff spot. Ashley Cowan posted a 9.850 in her first postseason routine as a Tiger. Tori Tatum continued to show out for the squad as she recorded a 9.900 and Finnegan recorded 9.850. Shchennikova scored a 9.825 before Bryant anchored and recorded a regional program high score with her 9.975 at the Denver Regional Final.
In the third rotation, Arenas led off the beam squad with her 9.850 and Shchennikova followed with a scored 9.875. Jeffrey added another 9.850 in the third spot and Sierra Ballard followed with a 9.800. Bryant and Finnegan finished the rotation with scores of a 9.900 and a 9.950, respectively. The Tigers posted its fifth-highest score at a regional with their score of 49.425 on the day.
Ballard started things off with a 9.850 in the final rotation on the floor. Shchennikova put up a 9.900 and Brock followed with a 9.850. Arenas recorded a 9.875 and Finnegan added a 9.850. Bryant anchored with a 9.950 to keep LSU in position to advance. The Tigers finished with a 49.425 on floor to close out competition in Magness Arena.
LSU recorded the second highest regional score in school history with their final score of 197.750 to defeat No. 11 Oregon State and No. 3 Michigan in the tiebreaker and advance out of the Denver regional.
Bryant finished as the top performer on bars and floor in the regional final with her scores on the day.
LSU finished ranked in the top-10 nationally on all four events as the squad placed third on vault, third on floor, ninth on bars and 10th on beam.
The Tigers own an NQS of 49.500 on vault, 49.420 on bars, 49.415 on beam and 49.595 on floor.
Bryant continues to be one of the top gymnasts in the nation as she ranks No. 4 in the country and No. 1 on vault with her NQS of 9.980. She also ranks in the top-20 on bars and floor.
Finnegan ranks fourth on floor, sixth on beam and 12th in the all-around.
Bryant, Finnegan Two of Nation’s Top Gymnasts
Bryant and Finnegan combined for seven WCGA Regular Season All-American honors in 2023. Bryant tallied All-America honors on vault, bars, floor and the all-around while Finnegan tallied honors on beam, floor and all-around.
The honors marked Bryant’s third career All-America honors on vault and second on bars, floor and in the all-around. It was the first in Finnegan’s career.
A native of Cornelius, N.C., Bryant is one of the top gymnasts in the country as she finished the regular season ranked at the No. 4 in the all-around. She competed in the all-around in every regular season competition for the Tigers and recorded five meets with scores of 9.900+ on all four events.
Her front handspring-front pike half is considered to be one of the best vaults in all NCAA gymnastics as she finished ranked at the top in the event with her NQS of 9.980.
She owns scores of 9.900 or higher on vault in every meet this season and recorded three 10’s in 2023 against Missouri, Alabama and West Virginia. She owns eight perfect scores on the event in her career.
Bryant also finished No. 6 in the nation on floor and No. 14 on bars. She had eight combined meets with scores over 9.900 and recorded her first career 10’s on the events in the same night against West Virginia to move her career total to 10 and place her at the top for most career perfect scores in program history.
The junior has won the all-around 10 times this season and owns 29 titles on the year (3 FX, 3 BB, 4 UB, 9 VT, 10 AA). Her 29 titles on the year tie her at tenth in program records for the most in a single season and her 59 career titles place her tenth in program history for most individual titles.
Finnegan, a native of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, finished ranked No. 4 on floor, No. 6 on beam and No. 12 in the all-around.
The sophomore owns an NQS of 9.965 on floor and recorded nine meets of 9.900+ performances on the event. She recorded her first career perfect score on floor this season against Georgia and posted another at Alabama.
On beam, Finnegan had nine meets with scores of 9.900 or better and recorded her first perfect score on the event against Florida. She owns 14 titles this season (1 VT, 2 AA, 5 FX, 6 BB).
Perfect Scores In 2023
Bryant has recorded five perfect scores this year for the Tigers to move her career total to 10 and become the all-time 10 leader in LSU history.
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 two events.
Finnegan recorded four straight perfect scores in four meets 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 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.
Bryant and Finnegan are expected to be mainstays in the all-around as the team prepares their march in the NCAA Championships. Arenas and Shchennikova could also appear in the all-around for the Tigers on Thursday.
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. She 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 regular season competition 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.
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.
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.
Junior Olivia Dunne made her first appearance on bars this season at Alabama and recorded a season high score of 9.850 at the SEC Championships.
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, Jeffrey owns a career high of 9.950 on bars after her performance in the Denver Regional Finals and made her beam and floor debuts in Tuscaloosa. The sophomore now owns highs of 9.900 on beam and 9.750 on floor.
A native of Dallas, Texas, KJ Johnson owns season high scores of 9.950 on floor and vault and also recorded a career high 9.875 in only her third beam appearance against Florida.
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 9.925 on vault.
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