What an incredible way to close out the regular season. LSU put on a show in front of the largest home crowd of the season and beat then-#35 West Virginia 198.025-196.450 to earn their second 198 of the year and the 198th 198 in NCAA history. The Tigers finish the regular season 8-5 on a 4-meet win streak in a meet that honored a senior class that’s dealt with incredible adversity with incredible grace.
SEC Gymnast of the Week Haleigh Bryant’s remarkable night in context:
This was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the greatest performance by a gymnast in LSU history. Haleigh Bryant had the meet of a lifetime with a 39.875 all-around score, tied for the highest total in school history with April Burkholder’s score from a 2003 meet at Centenary with Texas Woman’s. Haleigh likely set (possibly tied, can’t confirm the 1994 meet in which Jenny Hansen scored a 39.875) the Pete Maravich Assembly Center all-around record and broke the post-2000 record Trinity Thomas set in the Florida meet this season in which the Gators, a fact worth remembering each time possible. Haleigh became the first gymnast LSU gymnast to score three 10s in one meet and just the fifth gymnast to do so in NCAA history and the first since UCLA’s Jamie Dantzscher did so on March 3, 2002, in her 39.900 career high. Haleigh went from 7 10s to 10 to set the new LSU career record, breaking the mark held by Jennifer Wood and current beam coach Ashleigh Gnat. Haleigh got the sixth bars 10 in program history and the first since Sarah Finnegan did so at Arizona on March 15, 2019. Basically, she absolutely killed it.
LSU Vault 49.300; WVU Bars 49.025
LSU got off to an uncharacteristic start on vault. Elena Arenas led off with a stuck Yurchenko Full (YF) that scored a 9.875 due to leg separation in the air (not exactly worthy of the full 0.1 deduction). Alyona Shchennikova followed with a Yurchenko 1.5 (Y1.5) that looked great but hopped forward for a 9.850. Chase Brock followed with a Y1.5 that was off compared to what she did the past two meets. She landed with her right foot on the right vault guide line and took a large step forward to earn a 9.750. Aleah Finnegan followed with an underrotated Omelianchik that forced her to step back and scored a 9.800. Bryce Wilson kept in step with a YF that began with leg separation on the block ended with an uncontrolled step back to earn a 9.775. Haleigh anchored with a 10.0 despite hopping back. It looked like a stick in person, but it didn’t look like a 10 and her muted reaction following the score made it seem as if she felt similarly. Tori Tatum exhibitioned a Y1.5 that had a bit of a squat and a hop forward.
Overall, this wasn’t great save for the start and end. It’s one meet, yes, but those sticks need to be there for SECs.
LSU Bars 49.500; WVU Vault 49.075 (LSU leads 98.800-98.100)
The Tigers tied their season high on bars after a shaky start. Alexis Jeffrey led off with a 9.775, just her second sub-9.800 score on bars all year. She missed her first and third handstands and nearly sat her HIHO to the point that she had to take a step back. Elena followed with an 8.975 on a 9.05/8.90 split because she fell on her tkatchev after going so far over the bar, she couldn’t grab it. Tori fell on her Ray in warm-ups, but she absolutely killed her competition routine with an incredible, career-high tying 9.900 to begin a career-high train. She lost for her short final handstand and a small foot slide after landing her HIHO, but she floated on her Ray to pak in a way I’ve never seen before. Aleah tied her career high with a 9.925 that was perfect until she stepped back on her Fontaine landing. Ashley Cowan then set a new career high in her PMAC debut with a 9.900 on a 9.95/9.85 split. This was another routine that was likely perfect going into the dismount, but an underrotated double layout (DLO) forced her to step back. Haleigh finished the counting portion of the rotation with a 10.0 to earn the bars 10 she’d been waiting on since the 2022 Florida meet. Everything about it was perfect except she didn’t bring her heels together to stick. That’s a flat 0.05 deduction that college judges refuse to take despite it being one of the most obvious things in the code. Then came two exhibitions. Senior Kam Ryan began the exhibitions despite being in a boot the majority of the season with a mid-foot injury. She scored a 9.825 on the unpolished routine, but she nailed her Jaeger to overshoot that she fell on twice at Gym 101 and stuck her DLO before hopping forward. Livvy Dunne finished the exhibitions with a 9.850 that looked better than any routine she’d done this year. She didn’t cheat the low bar half turn, she absolutely nailed it and stuck her DLO. If she did that with hit handstands, she could score quite well Saturday.
Overall, this got the team on the right track to finish strong. The train of career highs was incredible and these last two meets have seen Ashley grow into a potential starter. For those wondering, Alyona didn’t go on bars because she needed a break to help deal with some anxiety that was hitting her after Kai Rivers’ Achilles tear.
LSU Beam 49.475; WVU Floor 49.350 (LSU leads 148.275-147.450)
The Tigers continued their streak of consecutive beam rotations above 49.250 since Elena moved into the lead spot. She led off with a 9.850 that had a short split jump, low kickover front, short switch half and small step forward on the round-off (RO) back 1.5. Alyona set a new season high with a 9.875 that had slight wobbles on the full turn, front aerial and switch leap and a short split jump. Alexis followed with a career-high tying 9.900 on a 9.95/9.85 split that was not 9.95-worthy. The main issues were flexed feet in her switch side and low landing on her standing front tuck, but the rest of the routine was gorgeous. Sierra Ballard came through with a 9.825 in the next spot that saw her have to fight to stay on after her BHS LOSO and kickover front and saw her finish with an underrotated RO back 1.5 with an uncontrolled step back. Haleigh’s 10 streak came to an end with a 9.875 thanks to a wobble following her standing front tuck (an issue since the Mizzou meet) and a low chest and underswing of the arms on the standing punch Rudi dismount landing. Aleah finished the counting portion of the rotation with a 9.975 that was perfect except for a lean finessed back onto the beam at the end of her BHS LO LOSO triple series at the start. Chase earned a 9.800 with a decent exhibition routine that had some wobbles and finished with a step back, but it had a really cool thing that I can only describe as a beat jump to straddle ¾ since I can’t find an official name for the second skill.
Overall, the splits and wobbles need to get cleaned up, but this was solid. Alexis is really coming into her own on beam and is showing off her talent with incredible execution.
LSU Floor 49.750; WVU Beam 49.000 (LSU wins 198.025-196.450)
LSU finished the meet with the second-highest floor score in program history. Sierra led off with a career-high tying 9.925 that lost points for a short switch half and uncontrolled landing on her double pike, but she nailed her opening DLO with the power we’ve come to expect. Alyona followed with a new all-event career-high 9.975 that was perfect except for her short switch leap. She had the most control on her front double full she’s had all year, she absolutely nailed her back 1.5 to front layout (FLO) and hit her Rudi to split jump so well, she was holding back tears. If this is her final bow on the PMAC stage, she really made it count. Chase followed up with a 9.700. She slid back on her double pike, underrotated her double tuck and hopped forward, nailed the splits on her switch side to Popa without finishing the full turn, and did her back 1.5 to front full to the point where she took an extra step out of bounds. Elena got things back on track with a 9.925 despite sliding out of her front double full, coming up short on her switch half and piking into her FLO to front full which had leg separation and some control issues. Aleah’s consecutive meets with a 10 streak came to an end with a 9.925. She threw out her double Arabian too early and lunged backward out of it and didn’t get all the way around in her tour jete half. In order to manage her feet that began feeling sore, she did a split jump and her ending choreography instead of doing her final pass and her ending choreography. Haleigh finished the counting portion of the meet with a 10. She nailed everything up to the final pass just like she did the meet prior and I was hoping she’d find a way to end the routine without doing the final pass, but she did her front double full well enough to avoid a deduction and blow the roof off the building. Bryce Wilson got the opportunity to exhibition, and she capped the night off with a phenomenal 9.950 that lost for a short switch leap. She nailed her FLO to front double full, showcased a beautiful switch ring and finished with a back 1.5 to FLO that stuck close enough to the out of bounds lines that a step would’ve gone out.
Overall, this was a fantastic close to the meet as everyone did a phenomenal job. Even though Chase went out of bounds, her back 1.5 to front full looked really good. Also, I don’t think I’ve heard anything louder than when the 10s came up on Haleigh’s routine.
They keep fighting and clawing their way up the mountain no matter what. Haleigh had the meet of her life despite feeling sick the morning of and the rest of the team followed with solid performances of their own. 10/24 routines either tied or set career highs. LSU locked up the #2 seed at SECs right before floor started when Alabama’s 197.125 became final. The climb moves to the postseason, a land that’s been treacherous the past two seasons.