Gymnastics Defeats No. 6 Kentucky in SEC Opener; Posts Highest Score In The Nation
BATON ROUGE — The No. 8 LSU Gymnastics team defeated No. 6 Kentucky in their SEC opener after earning the highest score in the country on Friday night inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Tigers posted a 198.125 over the Wildcats, marking the highest score by any team in the country through three meets and the highest score by any SEC team so far this year. The victory also marked Jay Clark’s 50th win since being named head coach of the Fighting Tigers.
“We needed that. It’s good to know that we have options. We told the team all along that we wanted to be able to mix things up and to be able to get some different looks to see what really looks the best in the end,” said head coach Jay Clark. “Overall, we’re just proud of them, Kentucky is a great team a lot of credit goes to them. This is a tough place for people to compete. They’re very clean, they don’t miss a lot. They pushed us. I’m just proud that the team stayed where they needed to mentally as we went through.”
The Tigers started the meet on vault, earning a season-high 49.525 in the first rotation. KJ Johnson led off with a 9.850, followed by a 9.875 from freshman Amari Drayton. Savannah Schoenherr scored a season-high 9.925 while Kiya Johnson scored a 9.900. Haleigh Bryant anchored with a nearly-perfect 9.975 to take the title on the night.
LSU rotated to bars, where Schoenherr continued to have herself a night and scored another 9.925. Johnson had a 9.850 while freshman Konnor McClain followed with a 9.875. Bryant, the all-time 10 leader in school history, added another perfect score to her resumé as she anchored with a perfect routine for the Tigers. The 10 marked Bryant’s second on bars and 11th in her career.
The Tigers closed the second rotation with a 49.450 on bars and had the lead over the Wildcats at the halfway point, 98.975-98.850.
The LSU beam lineup put up six solid routines. Sophomore Annie Beard made her second appearance in the lineup and marked a new career high with her 9.875 performance. McClain added a 9.800 for the Tigers in the third spot. Sierra Ballard, Johnson and Bryant all scored a 9.900 and Aleah Finnegan closed with a 9.850.
The Tigers came back strong in a season high 49.425 performance on beam after struggling with falls the previous two meets. LSU held onto a 148.400-148.325 lead heading into the fourth and final rotation in the PMAC.
LSU showed out on floor as the squad ended the night with the highest floor score in the nation this year and the third-highest score in school history. The rotation was highlighted by Kiya Johnson’s perfect 10 in the anchor spot for her fifth career perfect score on the event and eighth overall. Ballard continued to be one of the best floor leadoffs in the nation as she started with a 9.875 while McClain followed with a 9.925 in her debut on the event. Drayton posted a 9.90 for the Tigers in only her second floor routine. KJ Johnson and Bryant both added 9.95’s before Johnson closed with a perfect routine that capped off the night in fashion. .
“We got a lot of great contributions from some new people. Konnor (McClain) got going on three events for the first time tonight. Kiya (Johnson) really put a meet together in all four events and got comfortable again,” said Clark.
In front of 12,331 fans in the PMAC, the Tigers broke the 198 mark with the help of two perfect scores from Bryant and Johnson and season high scores across three events.
Bryant finished the night with a 39.825, securing the all-around title as well as the wins on vault and bars. Her three titles on the night moved her total to 65, with 25 on vault, nine on bars and 21 all-around.
Kiya Johnson had a season-high performance against the Wildcats, taking home the win on floor and finishing the night with a 39.650 in the all-around. Her floor title moved her career total to 16 on the event and 42 overall.
LSU will travel to take on Missouri in the Hearnes Center next week on Friday, January 26 at 7:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network.