After The Climb, the next thing to do is to Get There, or at least that’s what the 2024 LSU gymnastics team is saying as they gear up for their season. Today marks the first big step on their journey to getting wherever they believe they can go with the annual Gymnastics 101 meet. The plan is to have a fan fest beginning at 2:30 p.m., though the weather forecast is not looking to favor such a thing. The event itself begins at 4:00 p.m. Admission is free and there will be an autograph session after, but it will also be streamed on SEC Network+, so log in with your TV provider online and you can find it there.
It may not be a true competition, but there are still some things to look for. I’ve come up with five questions that I’ll be looking to answer on first watch and on rewatch, and you may want to note them, too.
1: Does everyone hold their landings?
In 2023, the NCAA made a rule change that was easy to miss. They required all floor performers to hold their finishing position for a full second or else they’d get a deduction. That’s been expanded to the other three events. Upon landing on vault, bars and beam, a gymnast must hold the landing position for at least one second before saluting or else they will lose .05 on top of any other deductions. I’ve talked to gymnasts at several smaller schools about this and they’ve been working on it a ton, but one of them admitted that doing it in practice is different from doing it in a competition environment and that may take a bit to get used to.
2: Will we see Elena Arenas at all?
This is a very new update. LSU held an Instagram Live yesterday hosted by Kiya Johnson and Aleah Finnegan. Head coach Jay Clark mentioned that Elena wasn’t doing as much in the gym recently because of issues with her back, and they were looking into exactly what was going on. He’s mentioned in press conferences that she’s had chronic back issues since before she arrived on campus, but this is still something worth monitoring once the lineups drop.
3: What are the newcomers bringing to the table?
LSU has six newcomers in the upcoming 2024 season, four freshmen and two graduate transfers. On the freshman front, there’s Amari Drayton, Konnor McClain, Kylie Coen and Leah Miller. Konnor’s training all four events for the season and is expected to contribute the most of any freshman, so I’m curious to see what she’s up to. Kylie is a five-star recruit who I’m excited to learn about and the other two are real toss-ups. Then there are the established grad transfers Jillian Hoffman and Savannah Schoenherr. Jillian can vault, she’s established herself on that event pretty well. Can she do anything else? We’ll find out. Sav, on the other hand, is a solid all-around threat established on vault and bars whose best career performance came against LSU back when she was a Gator. She’s coming back from a foot injury she suffered after tripping down a flight of stairs the day before the start of the 2023 season, so hopefully that’s all fine.
4: How are the people who are returning from injuries?
Yes, I’m aware I need to be a lot more specific because that encompasses most of the 2023 team. To be more specific, how are Kiya, Kai Rivers, Cammy Hall, Haleigh Bryant, she was competing the latter half of the season on a shoulder that needed some repairs, KJ Johnson, Livvy Dunne, less one injury and more a bevy of them, and Annie Beard? My least concern is with Haleigh, KJ and Annie. Annie is finally making her debut, so that’s more intrigue than anything, while the other two looked fine in the practice videos. For the Achilles sisters, Kiya, Kai and Cammy, I have zero clue where they are. I don’t anticipate Kiya to compete 100% on each event, as in she may avoid her more difficult passes like she did at Gym 101 last year, and I have no clue about the other two. It’s a question that will see an answer for the first time.
5: What’s new?
There are a few things I’m anticipating that will be somewhat new. Livvy hasn’t done a beam routine in front of a crowd since the pandemic season, but LSU’s posted enough videos for me to believe she’ll make an appearance. Bryce Wilson has a Yurchenko double (DTY) in her back pocket, so that could also come out. I know Chase Brock has been working on a Shushunova on bars, a high bar release sometimes mislabeled as a full-twisting tkatchev, but I don’t know if she’ll try it. Other than that, there’s going to be some things we haven’t seen before, and I’m excited to see them.
It’ll be nice to be back under the bright lights and on the black floor of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for the first time since March. It’s the best meet of the season because there’s no need to stress over judging. Enjoy some stress-free gymnastics because January 5 will be here before you know it.