Gymnastics Makes Ninth Appearance in NCAA Championship on Saturday
FORT WORTH, Texas – The LSU gymnastics team will make their ninth appearance in the NCAA Championship Final on Saturday, April 15, at 3 p.m. CT in Dickies Arena.
“The message stays the same. My challenge to them is to stay true to who they’ve been all season,” said head coach Jay Clark. “I want to go out there and just do our 24 routines. We know we’re not the favorites, but we’re going to go out there and compete hard. We’ve proven that’s what we do. This year has been incredibly rewarding with such a special group, and I just want them to enjoy it.”
LSU has now advanced to the NCAA team final nine times in school history. This marks the second time since the Four on the Floor format began in 2019 that the Tigers have advanced to the championship and first time under head coach Clark.
The squad will compete for the program’s first NCAA Championship on Saturday. The meet, which will air live on ABC, will feature LSU, Florida, Oklahoma and Utah. There will also be a live pre-show that will air at 2:30 p.m. CT prior to the competition on ABC.
Individual-apparatus streams and additional viewing options will be available ESPN+: Bars | Beam | Floor | Vault | Multiview | Trophy Presentation | Spanish-language Broadcast
The Tigers will begin the meet on bars while Oklahoma will begin on vault, Florida on beam and Utah on floor.
Streaming and live stats of the meet will be available on lsusports.net.
NCAA Championships History
LSU will look for their first championship title in school history under coach Clark. Saturday’s championship appearance marks the ninth time that the Tigers have advanced to the NCAA team final in school history.
The squad 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, including junior Haleigh Bryant who was named the NCAA vault champion in 2021.
Last Time On The Floor
The Tigers finished on top in the afternoon semifinal with a team score of 197.475 to advance to Saturday’s championship. Fellow SEC counterpart Florida (197.400) also advanced out of the first semifinal session. California finished third with a score of 196.9125 and Denver finished fourth with 196.500 in the prelims.
Bryant finished in the top spot of the all-around standings in the first session of the semifinals after scoring a 39.6875. Her score is the second-highest at NCAA Championships and the best in a semifinal in school history.
LSU started the semifinal competition off on beam and scored a 49.275 to sit in third following the first rotation. Elena Arenas led off with a 9.7375 and Alyona Shchennikova scored a 9.775 in the second spot. Alexis Jeffrey and Sierra Ballard both posted strong scores with a 9.8375 and 9.8125 respectively. Bryant scored a 9.9375 and Aleah Finnegan anchored with a 9.9125.
LSU climbed its way to second at the halfway point with a 49.475, which tied for the third-highest prelim score on the event in school history. Ballard set the tone for the squad with a 9.80 and Shchennikova scored a 9.8875 in the second routine. Sophomore KJ Johnson, who was a last-minute confirmation for the floor lineup, gave the Tigers a crucial performance and scored a 9.875. In her NCAA Championships debut, Finnegan earned her 9.9625 in the fifth spot to tie for the highest score on the event recorded by an LSU gymnast at the NCAA Championships. Bryant anchored with a 9.95 to tie for the second highest score on the event in school history.
In the third rotation, LSU held its own after scoring a 49.250 on vault. Arenas opened the event with a 9.825 and Shchennikova scored a 9.8375 on her Yurcehnko ½. Finnegan scored a 9.85 and freshman Bryce Wilson made her debut by scoring a 9.85. Bryant anchored the event with a 9.8625. The Tigers stayed in second following both Cal and Denver counting a fall and sat just .100 behind Florida with their score of 148.000.
LSU needed five hit routines to advance to the national championship and Clark’s bars lineup delivered six-for six hit routines. Freshman Ashley Cowan and sophomore Tori Tatum made their NCAA debuts and delivered with their scores of 9.875. Finnegan scored a 9.925 and Shchennikova secured the squad’s spot in the championship with a 9.8625. Bryant anchored the bars lineup and the meet for the Tigers with a 9.9375, which pushed the squad to first overall.
The 49.475 bars score tied for the second-highest on the event at the NCAA Championships in school history and secured the Tigers trip to the championship.
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, Finnegan Two Of Nation’s Top Gymnasts
Bryant and Finnegan combined for 15 WCGA All-American honors in 2023.
In the regular season, Bryant tallied All-America honors on vault, bars, floor and the all-around while Finnegan tallied honors on beam, floor and all-around.
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).
Following their performances in the NCAA Semifinals, Bryant and Finnegan notched themselves more All-America honors, combining for eight honors. Bryant finished as top all-arounder in the session while Finnegan finished third with her all-around score of 39.650.
Bryant also racked up All-America honors on vault, vars, beam and floor to earn five honors on the day and became only the second gymnast to earn All-American honors in all four events and the all-around. In her session, the junior finished fifth on vault, second on bars, second on beam and second on floor.
Bryant now owns 17 honors in her career, which ties her at fifth in program history for most career All-America honors (2 BB, 3 UB, 3 FX, 4 AA, 5 VT). Her nine honors in 2023 marks the most in a single season by any LSU gymnast.
Finnegan placed third on bars and first on floor to move her career total to six (1 BB, 1 UB, 2 FX, 2 AA).
In her NCAA Championships debut, Finnegan floor score of 9.9625 tied for the highest score on the event recorded by an LSU gymnast at the NCAA Championships.
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 Championship. Arenas and Shchennikova could also appear in the all-around for the Tigers on Saturday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 9.950 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.
Fans can follow the Tigers on the team’s social media channels @LSUgym on Instagram and Twitter and www.Facebook.com/lsugym.