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Gymnastics Competes for Fifth SEC Title on Saturday

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Gymnastics Competes for Fifth SEC Title on Saturday

NEW ORLEANS – The No. 3 nationally ranked LSU Gymnastics team (12-3, 5-2) is set to compete in the second session of the 2024 SEC Championships on Saturday, March 23 at 7 p.m. CT inside the Smoothie King Center. 

The Tigers will be competing for their fifth SEC title in program history on Saturday. 

“This is just the next step in our process. Our message and mindset is staying exactly the same as it has all year. We’re focused on us. We’ve done the work all year and now it’s just about being confident and doing our normal,” said head coach Jay Clark. “We have to go compete free and fearlessly and not try to put any additional pressure on ourselves. If we do that, then we’ll see how the chips fall. We know it’s going to be a great meet, but this isn’t our final destination.”

Seeding for the SEC Gymnastics Championships is based on the final regular-season team National Qualifying Scores (NQS). The Tigers finished the regular season as the No. 1 team in the conference with their NQS of 198.125 to earn them the first seed on Saturday. As the top seed, LSU will start the competition on vault and rotate to bars and beam before finishing on floor. 

All of the action will be aired on SEC Network with John Roethlesberger and Sam Peszek on the call. Taylor Davis will serve as the on-site reporter. In addition to the linear broadcasts on SECN, there will also be individual apparatus streams available on the ESPN app. Live stats for both sessions of competition can be found here.

Visit the homepage for the 2024 SEC Gymnastics Championships.

Top Seeded Tigers

Teams seeded 5-8 will open competition in the first session on Saturday in the Smoothie King Center at 2:30 p.m. CT while the top four seeds compete in the second session of the day at 7 p.m. CT. Arkansas (5), Missouri (6), Auburn (7) and Georgia (8) will kick off the competition before LSU (1) takes on Florida (2), Kentucky (3) and Alabama (4) in the evening session. 

The last time LSU entered the conference championship as the top seed was in 2019, when the team finished first in the meet. The Tigers own four SEC Championship titles in program history, including the inaugural conference title in 1981 and then three consecutive titles from 2017 to 2019.

LSU’s History at the SEC Championship

Saturday’s meet marks the 43rd edition of the SEC Championships and its second appearance in New Orleans since first hosting in 2019. For 20 years, SEC campuses hosted the conference championship as the inaugural championship was held at LSU in 1981. In 2001, the SEC Gymnastics Championship moved to neutral sites. 

Previous host sites include: Birmingham, Ala. (2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011, 2014 and 2022); Duluth, Ga. (2004, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2023); North Little Rock, Ark. (2007, 2013 and 2016); Nashville, Tenn. (2009), Jacksonville, Fla. (2010 and 2017); St. Louis, Mo. (2018); New Orleans, La. (2019) and Huntsville, Ala. (2021).

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 – 11 (1982, 1983, 1991, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2004, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2023); 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

All SEC programs enter the 2024 SEC Championships ranked among the nation’s top 20 – No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Kentucky, No. 7 Alabama, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 13 Missouri, No. 14 Auburn and No. 18 Georgia. The SEC is the only league with every program currently in the top 20.

The four teams in the SEC Championships’ final session are among the nation’s top-10: (No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Kentucky, No. 7 Alabama). 

Last Time On The Floor

The Tigers wrapped up the regular season with a 198.250-196.075 win over North Carolina last Friday night in the PMAC. LSU’s victory on the night achieved an undefeated 6-0 home record on the year, marking the program’s first undefeated home season since 2018. The Tigers have achieved this record on five separate occasions in past seasons in 2018, 2017, 2014, 2010 and 1987.

Tiger Nation continued to show out in the PMAC for the final home meet of the year and senior night. The Tigers secured their third straight sell-out, the most in a single season, and welcomed their largest crowd this season and fourth largest in program history as 13,328 Tiger fans showed out to watch the squad take down the Tar Heels.

The Tigers tallied a 49.400 on vault to take the early lead over North Carolina’s 48.425 after one rotation in the PMAC. Haleigh Bryant recorded a 9.925 in the anchor spot to finish as the top performer on the event.

Bryant continued her momentum to the second event as she anchored with a 9.975 routine on bars to earn her the title. It was a 49.625 for the Tigers in the second rotation to extend their lead to 99.025-97.550 at the halfway point in the PMAC. 

LSU scored a 49.625 on beam to close out the third rotation and extend their lead. A Tiger once again took home a title as McClain posted a 9.975 to earn her the victory on the night, moving her total to six titles this year and her fourth on the event.

The Tigers floor squad posted a 49.600 in the final rotation to close out the night. After four rotations in the PMAC, LSU defeated North Carolina with their sixth score over 198 this year.

Kiya Johnson anchored floor with a nearly perfect routine that earned her a 9.975 and the victory on the night. It was Johnson’s third floor title this year, moving her career wins to 19 on the event and 46 in total.

Bryant tallied two titles on vault and bars at the meet, as she now owns 26 event victories this year, with 31 on vault, 14 on bars and 86 in her career.

Aleah Finnegan appeared in the all-around for the first time this year and finished as the top performer in the meet with her season high 39.625. The all-around title marks her sixth title this year.

Week 11 Rankings

The Tigers placed as the No. 3 team in the country ahead of the 2024 SEC Championships this Saturday. LSU has ranked in the top-five nationally for all 11 weeks of the regular season.

The squad owns a National Qualifying Score (NQS) of 198.125 and ranks in the top-five on all four events for the fifth consecutive week. Their five counting scores are 198.425, 198.325, 198.300, 197.950 and 197.625.

LSU ranks second on vault (49.490), third on bars (49.560), fourth on beam (49.505) and first on floor (49.695). The Tigers own the highest score on vault in the country this year and second highest floor score.

This week’s floor ranking marks the Tigers fifth consecutive week at No. 1 as they own the highest NQS in school and NCAA history on the event.

Haleigh Bryant continues to lead the Tigers as she ranks the top gymnast in the country for the ninth consecutive week with her NQS of 39.800. The senior owns the highest all-around score in the country (39.925), which is a program record, the second best score in SEC history and ties for fourth-best in NCAA history.

Bryant owns an NQS of 9.900 or higher across the board and ranks individually on every event to mark her third straight week in the top-10 on every event and ninth week in the top-25. She currently ranks first on vault, fourth on bars, eighth on beam and fifth on floor.

Kiya Johnson placed amongst the top gymnasts in the country for the eighth consecutive week as she ranks No. 15 in the all-around with her NQS of 39.570. The fifth-year senior also improved to No. 7 in the floor rankings with her NQS of 9.960.

Aleah Finnegan and KJ Johnson remained in the top-20 in the floor rankings. Finnegan earned her fourth straight week in the event rankings as she is seventh in the country with her NQS of 9.960 while Johnson ranks at No. 20 on the event with her NQS of 9.940.

Freshman Konnor McClain improved her NQS to 9.960 on beam to place her at No. 5 on the event. The ranking marked her fourth straight week in the top-10 on the event.

Regular Season Notables

LSU finished the regular season with an overall record of 12-3, a conference record of 5-2 and an undefeated home record inside the PMAC. This year, the Tigers recorded six scores over 198, the second most by any team this year, and earned multiple program best scores.

The Tigers set a new program best score on February 2 with their score of 198.475 over No. 7 Arkansas and also recorded their highest road score in program history on March 8 at the Podium Challenge with their score of 198.425.

The squad took down nine ranked opponents in 2024 and there were 11 perfect scores throughout the regular season, with six from Haleigh Bryant, two from Aleah Finnegan, two from Konnor McClain and one from Kiya Johnson.

LSU earned the highest average attendance in the nation for the second time in program history this year. Tiger fans continue to show out every year as LSU has finished in the top four of average attendance nationally for seven consecutive years. 

The Tigers claimed the No. 1 spot in the country for the first time in 2022 to end Utah’s streak and once again took the top spot in 2024. The squad finished the regular season with an average attendance of 12,590, marking the highest average in school history and the seventh-straight season with an average of 10,000 or better. A total of over 75,000 Tiger fans showed out to the PMAC across six home meets this year.

The Tigers home season was highlighted with three consecutive sold-out crowds, the most that LSU has seen in a single season. Fans filled the PMAC for the squad’s competitions against Auburn, Alabama and North Carolina as each of those crowds rank in the top-10 largest in program history.

Bryant The AAI Award Finalist

Senior Haleigh Bryant was named one of six finalists for the 2024 AAI Award, announced by the American Athletic Incorporation (AAI). Often likened to the Heisman Trophy for Women’s Gymnastics, the AAI Award is given annually to the top senior gymnast in the country. This prestigious award has become a symbol of excellence in the sport.

Bryant joins Luisa Blanco (Alabama), Audrey Davis (Oklahoma), Maile O’Keefe (Utah), Gabby Wilson (Michigan) and Raena Worley (Kentucky) as one of this year’s finalists.

The senior was voted as a finalist out of 50 nominees by head coaches throughout the nation. She joins an elite group of LSU gymnasts who have been named finalists for the award, including Sarah Finnegan, Myia Hambrick, Ashleigh Gnat and Susan Jackson.

LSU has had three AAI Award Winners in Finnegan (2019), Gnat (2017) and Susan Jackson (2010) in program history.

Bryant sets the standard for what it means to be a true competitor, teammate, and leader. She has already proven to be one of the best gymnasts in LSU and NCAA history as she continues to etch her name in the record books in her senior campaign with the Tigers.

In her senior season, Bryant has completed both a gym slam and season slam. With her first career perfect score on beam at Georgia, Bryant became the 14th gymnast in NCAA history to complete a gym slam, a perfect score on every event. 

She continued to have a record breaking performance in the Tigers meet at the Podium Challenge, where she notched her first perfect score on vault this year and became only the 10th gymnast in the NCAA to complete a single-season slam (a perfect score on every event in a single season). She now owns six 10’s across all four events this season and 16 in her career (9 VT, 3 UB, 3 FX, 1 BB), placing her at 10th most in NCAA history.

In that same meet, she earned a career high 39.925 in the all-around to mark a new school record. The score is the highest by any gymnast in program history, the second highest in SEC history and matches the fourth-best score in NCAA history.

A native of Cornelius, North Carolina, Bryant is a 17 time All-American (5 VT, 3 UB, 2 BB, 3 FX, 4 AA) and three-time All-SEC member. The senior currently owns 86 titles in her career (sixth most in LSU history) with 31 on vault, 14 on bars, six on beam, nine on floor and 26 in the all-around. Her 31 career titles on vault are the second most in school history while she is tied with Rheagan Courville for most career all-around titles in program history.

The winner of this year’s AAI Award will be announced at the 2024 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas in April.

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