Win the beam, win the meet.
If there's one tenet of collegiate gymnastics I have internalized, it is this. The beam is the single most important rotation because the average scores are so much lower than the other rotations. And worse yet, disaster lurks behind every corner. Even if you do everything right, you will likely post a lower score in this rotation, but don't worry, because nothing every goes right.
All season long, LSU has lived by this mantra. LSU ranks 4th in the nation in the beam, with an RQS of 49.355. LSU has two gymnasts who rank in the national top 20 on the beam, including Jessie Jordan, who ranks 3rd in the nation.
So, of course, it was the beam which proved to be LSU's undoing on Saturday night at the SEC Championships. Ashleigh Gnat is the other LSU gymnast who ranks in the top 20 on the bam. She scored a 9.700 and her score was dropped. LSU was forced to carry two sub-9.80 scores, including one posted by the usually reliable Rheagan Courville.
It all came apart on the second rotation of the night, and the Tigers spent the rest of the night frantically trying to catch up. LSU's 48.975 on the beam nearly doomed the team right off the bat, as the team fell from 1st overall to 4th in just one rotation.
To the team's credit, they almost pulled off a furious comeback. Instead of just packing up and accepting the loss, LSU rallied and scored a 49.550 on the vault and a 49.550 on the floor. LSU ended up outscoring Alabama on three of the four rotations, but it was not enough to overcome the three tenth of a point edge LSU handed away on the beam.
At the end of the day, the team is left with a bunch of what ifs. LSU's rally fell just short and the team ended up finishing second, behind by a mere 0.075 points to Alabama. There's a lot of points in the meet, not just on the beam, where LSU could have picked up those hundredths of a point.
The rally did lead to some individual awards. Despite her low score on the beam, Courville rallied to take the all-around title, tied with her teammate Jessie Jordan. If there's anything more fitting than Jordan and Courville sharing the SEC all-around title this season, I'm not sure what it is. These were the two best athletes on the team all year, and they kept taking turns carrying the team. Their remarkable individual efforts were not enough, and it's telling that Courville won the individual SEC title, and the night felt like a disappointment. Such is the burden of expectations.
Myia Hambrick won the SEC vault title, and Lloimincia Hall gave LSU four individual SEC titles on the night, winning the floor title.
Those individual titles are great, and I don't want to take anything away from them, but... this year felt like it was special. This felt like the year LSU would finally win the SEC title, and maybe win the national title. One of those goals will not be attained. The other?
The team has a week off before the NCAA regionals on April 4th. The nationals, including the Super Six, are another two weeks after that. There is still time for this team to raise a team banner. The SEC championships were a bit of a bitter pill, but the postseason is just getting started. LSU knows all about winning the SEC title over Alabama, only to see the other team win the national title. Let's reverse that script.