In the end, it took the "perfect score" of 198 to win it. Actually, that didn't even win it, as the two co-champions tied with a 198.175. Three teams spent the year trading the No. 1 spot in the rankings and at the end of the day, two of them shared the title.
LSU was that third team, and they get left out. LSU did finish third in the nation, its best ever finish in gymnastics. The morning after, it hurts a little bit, as I do believe this team was good enough to win it all, but ultimately they fell just a bit short. Why?
Well, Oklahoma and Florida were just a bit better.
They weren't just better on Saturday, they were just slightly better all year. LSU face Oklahoma four times and Florida three times overall this season. Their record in those seven matchups? 1-6. LSU had it in them to win the title, but they needed that perfect meet, and it just didn't happen. But this is far from an unjust result. Over the course of the season, Florida and Oklahoma were just that little bit better. Tip your cap, and congratulate the better teams.
However, this is not the time for eulogies. This is a time for celebration. I firmly believe the most toxic thing in sports right now is the pervasive belief in national title or bust. We miss out on all of the great things that are happening because we sit their pining over one particular great thing. Did I want LSU to win the national title? Of course. Coming up just short hurts a little, but not enough to take away from what was a truly joyous season full of incredible accomplishment.
Rheagan Courville repeated as the vault national champion, becoming the first vaulter to successfully defend her national title since 2004. Her 9.975 was the highest scoring national title winning vault in NCAA history. So this just in, Courville is still awesome.
She's also coming back. So is newly minted internet sensation Lloimincia Hall, who did not get to compete for the floor exercise national title due to a disappointing score on Friday. It's a shame that the best gymnast in the nation at the floor exercise did not get to compete, but that is the rules. If there's any disappointment from this weekend, it is this. But Hall will get a second chance next season, and she certainly has the motivation.
This is still a young team that returns most of its biggest contributors for next year. LSU may have fallen just short this season, but this isn't the end of the road, just another step on the journey. Two freshmen, Sydney Ewing and Ashleigh Gnat, qualified for the individual finals as did sophomore Jessica Savona.
That isn't to say there will be no losses from this team. Maliah Mathis was a big part of the team all year, though she did not compete in the Super Six. Sarie Morrison has anchored the vault all season, and DD Breaux needs to find a replacement for her. Kaleigh Dickson was big in the all around, and she competed on the bars and the beam in the Super Six. Their contributions will be missed, but the team still returns most of its core.
Next year, Hall, Jordan and Courville will form the senior core around which this team is built. This is the best finish in LSU history, and we need to take the time to celebrate such an accomplishment. This team was great, but there were two teams out there that were even greater. That's where we want to be.
*On a personal note, this concludes my first year of attempting to cover gymnastics (poorly). I freely admit to being a novice to the sport, but I felt more comfortable with the scoring as time went on and even got to the point by about mid-season where I felt comfortable criticizing judge's decisions and such. This team is simply a blast, as is college gymnastics in general. People complain all of the time about how big and corporate college sports have become, and that we've lost a little something. Well, college gym has that mercurial "something". Meets are rowdy, cheap, and family friendly. I'm forced to watch the team online, and I'm hoping the SEC Network doesn't screw that up next year, but it's easy to get caught up in the feel of the meet even from a few hundred miles away.
This has been my favorite team in any sport to cover for ATVS. If you're not watching college gym, you should be, because it is awesome and most importantly, fun. I'm a big fan of fun. So a final thank you to DD Breaux and her team for a terrific season. I enjoyed every minute of it. Geaux Tigers!