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Gymnastics To Compete In First-Ever ESPN Invitational On Saturday

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Gymnastics To Compete In First-Ever ESPN Invitational On Saturday

WEST VALLEY CITY, UTAH— The No. 5 nationally ranked LSU Gymnastics team is set to compete in ESPN’s first-annual invitational, the Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad Meet, on Saturday, January 13 at 3 p.m. CT in the Maverik Center.

The early-season quad meet features four of the top-ranked teams in the country, who all made up last year’s Final Four. In the meet, LSU will take on No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Utah and No. 12 UCLA on the national stage as the competition will air on ABC.

“This is a great opportunity for us,” said head coach Jay Clark. “It’s just another step in our process. We’re here to compete hard against three of the other best teams in the country and get a foothold of where we stand. This is a chance to create a narrative and for our team to put themselves in the conversation.”

“It’s early in the year; only the second meet of the season and our first road meet. We just want to make sure their minds stay where they need to and compete hard.”

The meet will run in the new quad meet format, which will have a maximum of two events competing simultaneously. The Tigers will begin the meet on beam and rotate in Olympic order. 

The first event in the Maverik Center will start at 3:06 p.m. CT. Bart Conner and Kathy Johnson Clarke will be on call with Taylor Davis as the on-site reporter. In addition to live coverage on ABC, fans can also watch the meet on ESPN+ and ESPN3 and live stats for the competition are available here.

Opponent History

No. 1 Oklahoma remains the top team in the nation after posting a 197.850 in their opening competition of the season at the Mean Girls Super 16 in Las Vegas, where they defeated No. 9 Kentucky, No. 11 Michigan State, and No. 6 Michigan. The Sooners were one of just four schools to post a 197-plus score in the first week of competition.

The Tigers own an overall record of 11-23-0 against the Sooners and are 8-19-0 at a neutral site.

No. 2 Utah recorded their highest season-opening score in opening weekend, taking down Boise State 197.300-194.350. LSU is 4-24 against Utah at neutral site venues, with the Utes owning the overall series with a 36-8 record.

UCLA placed fourth in the season-opening Super 16 with a score of 196.550, finishing behind Alabama, California, and Auburn. They sit at No. 12 in the rankings after week one.

The Tigers are 7-25-1 against the Bruins and 6-19-1 at a neutral site.

Last Time On The Floor

The No. 3 LSU Gymnastics team defeated No. 14 Ohio State by a score of 196.975-196.775 in week one to start off the new year with a win. The last time LSU opened the season with a win against a ranked opponent was in 2021, when the squad took down No. 15 Arkansas.

The night was highlighted by senior Haleigh Bryant, who took home vault and all-around titles on the night and freshman Amari Drayton, who had an impressive debut on vault and floor in her first competition as a Tiger.

Fifth-year senior Kiya Johnson took home the bars title in her first competition back with her score of 9.925 to move her total to 41 career titles and her fourth on the event. 

Junior Aleah Finnegan’s 9.950 performance on beam earned her the win on the night, moving her career total to 16 and her eighth title on beam. 

The floor squad posted a 49.525 in the last rotation to help lift the Tiger’s over the Buckeyes and secure the squad’s first win of the year.

Bryant’s all-around title on the night moved her career total to 62 wins, which ties her with Ashleigh Gnat and Jennifer Woods at eighth for most career titles in school history. She also sits amongst the top-five gymnasts in school history in most vault (24) and all-around titles (20).

Program History 

Head Coach Jay Clark enters his fourth season leading the Tigers and 13th season overall as he continues to grow the LSU Gymnastics program. He is joined by Assistant Coaches Garrett Griffeth, Ashleigh Gnat and Courtney McCool Griffeth. Gnat is in her fourth season with the Tigers while the Griffeth duo enters their third season on staff. 

The Tigers climbed their way to the NCAA Championship Final in Fort Worth for the ninth time in program history in 2023. The Final Four appearance marked the second time that LSU has advanced to the finals since the format began in 2019 and the first time under Clark’s tenure.

Last season marked the program’s 38th straight appearance in the NCAA postseason and 32nd program appearance in the NCAA Championships.

LSU has a total of 16 individual national titles across 10 gymnasts in program history, including current senior Haleigh Bryant who was named the NCAA vault champion in 2021.

The Tigers own four SEC Championship titles in program history, winning three consecutive titles from 2017 to 2019. The last time LSU took home the conference title was in 2019 in the Smoothie King Center, the site of this year’s conference championship.

Bryant, Drayton Earn Week One SEC Honors

The duo of Haleigh Bryant and Amari Drayton took home the first SEC awards of the 2024 season, announced by the conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Bryant was named the SEC Gymnast of the Week while freshman Amari Drayton earned Co-Freshman of the Week honors for their performances in the Tigers season opener against No. 14 Ohio State last Friday night.

A native of Cornelius, North Carolina, Bryant finished as the top all-around gymnast in the country after week one with her score of 39.675. She helped lift the Tigers to a 196.975-196.775 victory over the Buckeyes to secure the squad’s first victory of 2024. 

The senior’s night was highlighted by her front pike half vault that scored a 9.950, while also posting a 9.875 on bars and a 9.925 on beam and floor for the Tigers. 

Drayton had an impressive night against the Buckeyes in her collegiate gymnastics debut as she scored a pair of 9.925’s on vault and floor. 

The freshman out of Spring, Texas started the night off with a stuck yurchenko one and a half on vault before anchoring on floor, capturing second place on vault and a share of second place on floor in her first competition with the Tigers.

Week One Road To Nationals Ranking

LSU sits at fifth in the Road to Nationals rankings after week one. The Tigers are the top team on vault and floor in the nation after their performance against the Buckeyes in opening weekend, while also placing in the top-10 on bars. The Tigers posted scores of 49.375 on vault, 49.375 on bars, 48.700 on beam and 49.525 on floor on Friday night.

Haleigh Bryant, Kiya Johnson, Sierra Ballard, Aleah Finnegan, Alexis Jeffrey and Amari Drayton all sit in the top-25 individual rankings for their performances in week one. 

With her score of 39.675 in the all-around against the Buckeyes, Bryant picked up right where she left off from last season and is the top gymnast in the country after week one, while also placing second on vault, sixth on beam and sixth on floor. 

The senior posted a 9.950 on vault, 9.875 on bars, and a pair of 9.925’s on beam and floor for the Tigers on Friday night. 

Johnson earned a 9.925 on bars in her first competition back from injury to place her at No. 13 in the week one ranking while Jeffrey also ranks No. 21 on the event with her score of 9.900.

Finnegan shares third place in the beam rankings after her 9.950 performance in opening weekend that won her the title on the night.

Ballard and Finnegan both posted scores of 9.900 on floor in the Tiger’s competition against the Buckeyes to place them tied at No. 13 in the individual event rankings. 

Drayton scored a pair of 9.925’s on vault and floor in her collegiate gymnastics debut and ranks sixth on both events nationally.

The 2024 Squad

This year’s roster is composed of 22 gymnasts with 11 seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen. The Tigers welcomed two transfers this year in Savannah Schoenherr and Jillian Hoffman and four new freshmen as Konnor McClain, Amari Drayton, Kylie Coen and Leah Miller begin their first year in the Purple & Gold.

Cammy Hall is a sixth-year who is returning this year from injury, while fifth-year seniors Kiya Johnson, Alyona Shchennikova and Kai Rivers all returned for their final year of competition with the Tigers. 

Haleigh Bryant, Sierra Ballard, Chase Brock, Elena Arenas and Olivia Dunne all enter their senior year while Aleah Finnegan, Alexis Jeffrey, Tori Tatum, KJ Johnson begin their junior season. 

Ashley Cowan, Bryce Wilson and Annie Beard enter their second year as Tigers. 

Follow the Tigers

Stay up to date with all things LSU Gymnastics by following the team’s social media channels @LSUgym on  Instagram and  Twitter and Facebook.