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LSU Advances to Denver Regional Final

The Tigers climb one step further than last year

The Tigers are back to doing April gymnastics.

#6 LSU did enough to advance to the Denver Regional final and move to the precipice of a nationals appearance. The Tigers tied #11 Oregon State for the semifinal team title with a 197.375, giving Oregon State their third tie of the season and LSU their first tie since a 2/19/2010 dual meet at Arkansas which snapped the longest active streak of meets without a tie in the SEC. Georgia finished third with a 197.000 and extended their losing streak against LSU to 20 while Nebraska finished fourth with a 195.525. LSU will face Oregon State, #3 Michigan and regional host #14 Denver in the regional final Sunday at 6:00 p.m. The meet will be streamed on ESPN+.

LSU Beam 49.325 (2nd place after 1)

LSU began the meet with a solid rotation. Elena Arenas led off with a 9.825, a score that came in following some sort of judges’ conference. She looked short on her split jump, had a balance check and some leg form in her BHS LOSO and was well short on her switch half, but she finished the routine strong with a stuck round-off (RO) back 1.5 and kept her composure throughout. Alyona Shchennikova followed with a 9.800. She had couple of big wobbles, one at the end of her front aerial to BHS BHS acro series and the other after her side aerial, and was short on her split jump, but she stuck her BHS gainer full and fought off the weirdness that was whatever happened after Elena’s routine. Alexis Jeffrey delivered yet another strong routine with a 9.900. She had a small check on her wolf turn, a very small check on her BHS LOSO and a low landing on her standing front. In fact, this was not 9.900-worthy execution compared to her other routines such as the one she did at the Podium Challenge that earned a 9.875, yet she still killed it. Sierra Ballard followed with a 9.850 that exemplified the utterly ridiculous beam judging. She had some leg in her BHS LOSO and a hip check, a short switch half, a check on her kickover front and a big uncontrolled step forward on her RO back 1.5, which should’ve been at least 0.30 in deductions. She’s a good gymnast and this routine was decent, but she’s had better execution in routines that went 9.825, too. Anyway, Haleigh Bryant tied her career high with a 9.950. The only issue with the routine was a small check on her full turn before her standing front, a skill she’d struggled with since the Missouri meet until nailing it in this one. That score ended up being crucial as Aleah Finnegan anchored with a 9.050, the team’s first beam fall since Kai Rivers led off with a fall against Missouri. It wasn’t the typical fall after a big wobble, either, she went for her BHS LO LOSO triple series, realized she was off by the time her left foot was on the right half of the beam in the second part and just flipped backward off the beam. She went through and did the rest of her routine, but that was an unfortunate mishap.

Overall, this was a good start. It wasn’t like they were wobbling everywhere nor were they timid. They left several tenths out there, but they didn’t leave cracks in the foundation.

LSU Floor 49.525 (98.850, 1st place after 2)

LSU put up their second-best floor rotation at a regionals meet in program history, tied with the rotation from the 2002 Central Regional held before any of the underclassmen on the roster were born. Sierra led off with a 9.875. She looked short on her switch half and stepped forward out of her double pike, a deduction for stepping in the opposite direction of the tumbling (indicates underrotation), but she nailed her double layout (DLO) and did a good back 1.5 to front layout (FLO). Alyona followed with a 9.875 that would’ve been easier to analyze had the camera placement on the broadcast been anywhere close to decent for her leaps. Since it wasn’t, the only thing I can say for certain is that she didn’t have great control out of her front double full and looked fine otherwise. Chase Brock tied her career high for the second consecutive meet with a 9.925. She had the best set of three passes she’s done all year, but her turns on her switch side to Popa were incomplete as it was clear she had to turn after her Popa and not during it. Elena kept up the pace with a 9.900. Her FLO to front full had some leg separation and control issues, but she opened with a much better FLO to front double full than she did at SECs and she nailed her switch half for the first time all season. I was concerned that Aleah’s uncharacteristic beam fall could snowball into a more characteristic floor fall, and her 9.175 confirmed those fears. Against Alabama and West Virginia, she opened her double Arabian too early and had to step back instead of doing a stag jump. This time, she opened it way too early and sat it. She looked really upset when she finished the routine as if on the verge of tears, but she seemed to feel a little better after talking with Jay. Haleigh had to follow that up with a routine that’s been downgraded to two passes for this weekend, and she delivered the hammer with a 9.950. The only spot that looked worthy of a deduction was her switch half, but the rest of the routine was very good. I’m not a fan of the fact that she finishes her tumbling in 28 seconds, but that feels like the result of her choreography not fitting a two-pass routine very well, especially with the quick start.

Overall, this was the kind of floor rotation the Tigers needed to put themselves in a good position to advance. Elena and Chase went out and did some of their best routines of the year while Haleigh did her usual stuff.

LSU Vault 49.250 (148.100, 1st place after 3)

Vault judging was extra stingy here. LSU recorded their second-lowest vault score of the season and their first without a 9.900+ score. Elena led off with a 9.850 Yurchenko Full (YF) that had some leg separation in the air and a small slide back. Alyona followed with a Yurchenko 1.5 (Y1.5) that landed a bit squatty before she hopped forward. Chase followed with a 9.800 on her Y1.5 that was underrotated. She didn’t go for the stick and instead stepped back with her left foot, but she slid her right foot back into her salute which could be why one judge gave her a 9.75. Aleah fought back to hit her Omelianchik and delivered a 9.850 with a step forward. Bryce Wilson scored a 9.825 on her YF in her NCAA postseason debut, sticking it with a low chest and an underswing of her arms to maintain balance. Haleigh anchored the rotation with a 9.875, her first sub-9.900 vault of the season. Two judges gave her a 9.90, likely because they took 0.1 for her hop back, but two others went 9.85 and potentially because she hit the mat on the directional line closest to the camera.

Overall, the Tigers left a lot out there on vault by sticking only one landing. Jay mentioned on Monday that they had so much energy on vault, they couldn’t stick their landings, and it seemed to show in this meet.

LSU Bars 49.275 (197.375, t-1st place)

LSU finished the meet with another rotation that had a lot of tenths left on the table. Alexis led off with a 9.900 that had minimal leg separation in the pak salto and barely maintained handstand position in the low bar half turn but was superb otherwise. Livvy Dunne got the nod in the second spot and scored a 9.650. She had some leg separation in her pak, cheated her low bar half turn and was short on her final handstand. Her DLO was a whole cavalcade of uncharacteristic issues that began when she lost her momentum on her first swing into it, continued into her legs bending back after releasing and finished when she landed low and had to step forward. Tori Tatum followed with a 9.750 on a 9.80/9.70 counting judge split. The routine was very solid until the HIHO dismount on which she squatted with her feet more than hip width apart, swung her arms to maintain her balance and carried some momentum backward through her salute. Aleah finished her impressive single-meet comeback with another 9.850. She lost for going way over on her second handstand and for stepping forward on her Fontaine, but she hit everything else. Alyona Shchennikova, the senior from Evergreen, Colorado, clinched LSU’s spot in the regional final with a 9.850 of her own. She cheated the low bar half turn, was short on her final handstand and slid back with carried momentum on her DLO, but was otherwise great. Haleigh finished things off with a 9.925, losing for a short second handstand and perhaps a slight slide of her left foot back on her landing. Other than that, this was a fantastic routine.

Overall, this was not LSU’s best bars rotation, but it was enough to close things out.

Overall thoughts:

This was LSU’s lowest-scoring meet since the Arkansas meet back in January, but it was fine. Haleigh won the all-around with a 39.700 and is guaranteed to go to nationals either with LSU or as an individual all-arounder. The Tigers left a lot out there, but they still have a chance to pick them up in the regional final. A rest day will serve them well before they start on vault. It’s hard to say much more except that hopefully, the party that begins at 2:30 will extend into the night.