LSU’s first SEC title in over thirty years was both easier and more difficult than anyone could have thought.
After years of falling just short of the title, especially in the last few years when it seemed the fates always aligned against DD Breaux from holding the trophy, LSU smashed through the barrier. The Tigers didn’t lose an SEC meet all season, and they kept up that form at the SEC Championships.
LSU burst out to a 49.575 on the first rotation, taking a lead on the field it would never relinquish. There was a bit of a nervous moment on beam, but all in all, LSU dominated the SEC in Jacksonville just had it done all season. See? Super easy. The Tigers were the best team all year, and they were the best team on Saturday.
Would that it were so simple.
To win that elusive SEC championship, LSU needed to be near perfect, and perfect doesn’t come easily. LSU raced out to a 99.025 score midway through the meet, on pace for a 198 overall score. This was the pace LSU not only kept, but was forced to keep by the competition all night long.
Yes, LSU scored a monster 198.075 to win the title, the third-highest score in SEC championship meet history. But pushing them the entire way, nipping at their heels was the always dangerous Florida Gators, who ended the meet with a 197.825. LSU needed virtually every hundredth of a point it scored. This was no cakewalk, this was swimming just ahead of the sharks.
First and foremost among those pursuers was Florida’s Alex McMurtry, who almost carried her team to the title by her lonesome. McMurtry scored a 9.90 or better on all four events en route to the SEC individual title. Her 39.700 overall score blew away the field, as only her teammate, Kennedy Baker, could remotely keep pace with a 39.650. Sarah Finnegan topped the LSU all-around scoring with a 39.525.
The name notably absent there is Ashleigh Gnat, who put aside individual honors this year for team goals. Instead of competing for the all-around, Gnat has stepped off of the uneven bars and it has made her a better gymnast and LSU a better team. Gnat might have won the all-around title had she competed all four events, but she crushed the three events she did participate in.
Gnat led off the evening with a perfect 10 on the vault and the SEC title on that event. After sitting out the bars, she anchored the beam rotation with a 9.95 and yes, another SEC title. By the time Gnat began her floor exercise, LSU had already clinched the SEC title. Gnat responded by closing the curtains the only way she knows how, with another dominating performance. Gnat scored a 9.95 on floor, winning her third SEC title of the day.
Not bad for someone putting aside individual honors for the good of the team.
McKenna Kelly also scored a 9.95 on the floor and she takes home an SEC title as well. Lexie Priessman won the SEC title on bars with a 9.95. All in all, LSU comes home with the SEC team title and five individual SEC championships among three different gymnasts. LSU dominated this meet, and they did it with Florida throwing their best punch.
Time to hang a banner. LSU won the SEC title.