One of the best parts of this decade for LSU sports was the explosion of LSU gymnastics. LSU had always had a pretty good program, making every NCAA tournament dating back to 1985. Heck, LSU even made its first Super Six in 2008 and again in 2009.
But that was just an appetizer for what was about to occur. DD Breaux found her groove late in her career and LSU went from a pretty good program on the fringes of contention to one of the pre-eminent gymnastics powers in the nation.
In 2016, LSU got to the very cusp, finishing as the national runner up to Oklahoma at the Super Six. Ashleigh Gnat and Myia Hambrick got LSU close, but not quite. But there would always be next year, and next year was the magical season of 2017.
Both returned for the 2017 to an absolutely loaded squad filled with now-legendary gymnasts like Lexie Priessman, Sarah Finnegan, Kennedi Edney, floor specialist McKenna Kelly, and beam specialist Erin Macadaeg. This was a squad built not to compete for titles, but win them.
The Tigers were simply an undeniable force of nature during the 2017 season. They absolutely crushed the field. LSU opened the season with a 197.825 score against Georgia and ever looked back. The lowest team score of the season was a 197.425, which is better than nearly every team’s top score for the season save for an elite few.
LSU cruised to a 20-1 record and an SEC regular season title. And then they found the next gear for the postseason. LSU crushed the field with a remarkable 198.075 score to win its first SEC Conference Championship meet title since 1981. LSU won all four individual event titles as well as the all-around, won by Ashleigh Gnat.
The Tigers cruised through its region and then again turned on the jets in the next round, scoring a 198.275 to advance to the Super Six. It was the highest score in NCAA tournament history. This was a team that had all the pieces to win the national title, and was also hitting on all cylinders.
LSU’s NCAA record didn’t make it through the month. Oklahoma was simply too much in the Super Six, delivering what can only be described as the perfect meet. The Sooners scored a mind-boggling 198.3975, a score so high that it honestly made finishing second easier to swallow.
On that night, there was simply no beating Oklahoma. So you just have to tip your cap to the best performance in the history of college gymnastics. Because that’s what it took to beat LSU that season. Not simply a great night from a great team, but literally the best performance in NCAA history. That’s the only thing that could have topped LSU.
But to call finishing second in the nation a disappointment would be a gross misstatement. The 2017 LSU gymnastics team might arguably be the second greatest college team of all-time, they just had the misfortune of running into the best team ever, and that cursed Maggie Nichols.
Still, LSU’s accomplishments over the course of the season and in Fort Worth were amazing. LSU capped the season with individual national championships at three of the four disciplines. Sarah Finnegan won the uneven bars title and Kennedi Edney won the vault, a feat both of them would repeat in 2019. Ashleigh Gnat added a national title in the floor exercise to her already impressive resume.
Let that sink in, LSU had the highest scoring gymnast on three of the four rotations, and it still wasn’t enough to win the national title. That’s not LSU failing to win the title, that’s a testament to the singular greatness of that Oklahoma team.
The 2017 LSU gymnastics team was the greatest LSU team to play all of its games during the decade (note the dodge to exclude the 2019 football team). They won almost everything there was to win, and they had a four month stretch of near total dominance over the SEC. They won multiple titles and put LSU on the map not as a contender, but as one of the most elite gym schools in the nation.
Nothing can diminish their greatness, and just how much fun that team was. It was a dream season, one from which we’ve never entirely woken up.