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Gym Falls to Florida, Looks Great Doing So

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Forget the future, the freshmen are already here now

2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Gymnastics Championship
I don’t know how she does this
Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

That football season sure was nice, but it’s time for us to walk out of that haze and remember that LSU has some other sports teams, and you know what? They are pretty good, too.

There’s no way around it, the LSU gymnastics team is not going to be as good as last year’s edition. You don’t lose a loaded senior class headlined by an all-timer like Sarah Finnegan and not at least take a little step back.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that these freshmen are sort of awesome. In the biggest meet of this young season so far, LSU had three freshmen in the rotation. Two of them, Kiya Johnson and Kai Rivers, accounted for seven of the team’s 24 total routines. Maddie Rau added a vault rotation, so collectively, the freshmen account for a third of the performances.

Now, relying so heavily on freshmen does have its downside. That means the team is likely going to be prone to inconsistency, and it’s also going to take time for this team to ramp up to postseason form.

But you know what? So did the 2019 team. We remember the 2019 team for what they eventually became, an absolute monster of a squad which dropped massive scores as soon as the calendar flipped to March, finally capping off the run with a 197.825 score at the Four on the Floor finals and another national runner-up finish.

In eight meets in the two months of March and April, LSU scored a 197.900 or higher four times. The team’s lowest score was a 197.200 when the team put it in cruise control in its first meet of the national tournament.

But we forget the team lost three of its fist six meets. LSU didn’t crack a 197.000 score until its third meet of the season, and the team scored under a 197 in three of its first six meets. Even great teams take some time to get their footing. You don’t want to leave it all on the floor in January.

So LSU entered the Florida meet having not scored a 197.000 or above all season. It even scored a 195.725 in the season opener, a win over Arizona. It was the first time LSU had not scored at least a 196.000 since January 14, 2016 against NC State. By the way, that team finished second in the nation.

LSU finally broke the 197.000 barrier this weekend, scoring a 197.775 on the road in Gainesville. That’s the good news again. The bad news was that Florida was far too much, scoring a 198.375 and handing LSU its first loss of the season. Still, LSU climbed to #6 in the nation with its score.

Yes, LSU has the sixth best average score in the nation right now, but the Florida meet showed what the team is truly capable of. LSU’s 197.775 was a score only bested by two other teams all season, Florida and Oklahoma. Even #3 UCLA’s top score all season is a 197.425.

This was a team we thought would belong to Kennedi Edney. She’s the senior star who has slowly developed into an all-around powerhouse, pushing Finnegan last season to new heights. She’s been as good as advertised, as she scored a 9.90 or better on every rotation en route to a 39.675 all-around score.

That wasn’t enough to hold off Kiya Johnson. Johnson posted the first 10 of her career, on the beam rotation. She came close to doing it twice, scoring a 9.975 on floor. That was enough to push Johnson to a 39.725, and the all-around leader for LSU, but shy of the meet title, as Trinity Thomas of Florida scored an amazing 39.775.

LSU surely left points on the table in Florida. The Tigers scored just 49.250 on the floor, as Sarah Edwards suffered an injury during the rotation. LSU didn’t get the big beam scores it knows it can produce, scoring a 49.425, a very good score, but there’s a little more to be gained there.

The Tigers scored a 197.775 and it feels like they are just scratching the surface of what they can do. It’s the first loss of the season, and that’s always a bit disappointing, but this team gave us a glimpse of how great it can be.

Maybe there doesn’t need to be a step back at all. The reinforcements have already arrived.

Gym’s season continues as the Tiger return to the PMAC this Friday night to face Bama. The meet begins at 7:15 and will air live on SEC Network.