Gymnastics hasn’t exactly been floundering recently, but they have been a team that has not been playing to its fullest potential. Now, some of that could be by design, as DD Breaux has played with the lineups and worked on elements in the midseason with an eye to the future.
Well, the future is here.
LSU has two SEC meets left, plus two out of conference tune ups, and then the SEC championships on March 24. The time for tinkering was over, it is time to start the postseason push. You are what you are going to be at this point of the year.
And what LSU is going to be is frickin’ awesome.
LSU ambitiously scheduled two meets this weekend, one the Mardi Gras Classic against some pretty good squads in Missouri, Arkansas, and George Washington. The second meet was more of an exhibition against D-II Texas Women’s. The real stress was not the other team’s, but the stress two meets so close together would put on the lineup.
LSU dominated the Mardi Gras Classic from the get go. LSU scored a 49.45 on the vault, with the lowest score being a 9.825. Bars went much the same way. LSU scored a 49.55 with only one score below a 9.80, which was thrown out. It’s not just the string of high scores, it was the consistency. Everyone contributed.
LSU kept up its consistency on the next two events, scoring a 49.525 on beam and a 49.55 on floor. It wasn’t just that LSU scored a 198.075 overall, it was that LSU scores on each rotation ranged from 49.45 to 49.55. This is a team that showed no weaknesses. LSU only had two routines all night that scored below 9.80, and they were both a 9.775 (and thrown out).
A look at the individual leaderboard demonstrates just how hard LSU is to beat, and how relentless its attack on every rotation really is. Sure, LSU won all four rotation titles and the all-around, but look how the winners were so evenly distributed. Lexie Priessman won the beam, tied with Sarah Finnegan. Finnegan would win the beam outright. Then Myia Hambrick won the floor and the vault. However, despite her two outright titles, Hambrick lost the overall to Finnegan.
Relentless, is what I’m talking about. LSU would have the top two on the floor and the entire top three on both the vault and the bars. It’s in those ranks we see other names pop up like Kennedi Edney and Sami Durante. Heck, LSU crushed the beam on a night that Erin Macadaeg didn’t dominate.
LSU would change things up on Sunday and move from unerring consistency to frightening domination of an event. LSU got off to a slow start, by its standards, with a 49.375 on the vault. Then, the team blew the roof of the joint with a 49.725 on the bars, a school record and the highest score by any team in a decade on that apparatus. The lowest qualifying score was a 9.900, and you can even argue the judges were a little harsh to Finnegan and Priessman.
The team put it in cruise control on beam, only to bring the house down again on the floor, this time with a 49.600 score. The lowest qualifying score this time was a mere 9.875. All of the other scores were 9.90 or higher. And again, LSU finished with a score above 198. LSU’s 198.175 topped Friday night’s 198.075.
Other than the obvious, the best thing about the weekend is how Breaux was able to flex the depth of this team. It all started to come together this weekend, and she was able to use 12 gymnasts on Sunday and 11 on Friday.
Only Sarah Edwards only competed in one meet, as she did the vault on Sunday. Three more gymnasts competed in one event in each meet (Durante on bars, Desiderio on beam, and Kirby on floor). And still eight gymnasts competed in multiple events in multiple meets, with Kennedi Edney doing yeoman’s work of pulling all eight rotations.
Most encouraging, Breaux found plenty of room for Ruby Harrold, who has struggled all year long. But the team has shown confidence in her, and Harrold turned it around last night, and hopefully this will spark a finishing run. She competed in five events over two meets. She had decent scores on Friday, but in an expanded role on Sunday, she went 9.85 – 9.95 – 9.90.
This team doesn’t just need Myia to be Myia and for Priessman, Edney, and Finnegan to be their usual awesome selves. It needs the role players to bang out big scores. That’s how Oklahoma wins. It’s not just the stars, it’s the relentless attack of the entire lineup, relying heavily on one/two event specialist.
As of this weekend, LSU has that same kind of depth, only with the added bonus of a superstar top three or four to anchor the squad. The rest of the nation is on notice, LSU gym looks terrifyingly good.