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LSU at Collegiate Quad Meet Recap

This team has the pieces to Get There and it’s showing early

That was better than it could’ve been. LSU made their first road trip of the year to the Maverik Center in Utah for the second session of Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad Saturday and finished second with a 197.150. #1 Oklahoma won the meet with a 197.900, #12 UCLA finished third with a 197.100 and #2 Utah finished fourth with a 196.975. For the second straight meet, LSU fought back from a fraught beam rotation to get a surprisingly great result considering the circumstances.

Konnor McClain named SEC Specialist of the Week

It took two weeks for LSU to have a gymnast win each one of the SEC’s weekly awards. Konnor competed on just one event in this meet, but she made it count. She scored a 10 on bars. The rest of this is a bunch of sentences about how incredible that is. Konnor’s 10 was just the seventh bars 10 in program history and the second road bars 10 in school history; Sarah Finnegan’s 10 at Arizona on 3/15/19 was the first. She is the first freshman in LSU history to score a 10 on bars and just the fifth freshman in LSU history to score a 10 on any event. This is the earliest point in any season in which LSU has had a bars 10.

One thing I feel deserves to be talked about on its own is how early this was in her career. Lexie Priessman competed 44 bars routines before her first routine. Sarah Finnegan competed 40 before her first. Haleigh Bryant competed 33 before her first. Syreeta Barnett competed 32 before her first. Sharene Mamby competed 23 before her first. Konnor competed 1. Konnor also holds the LSU record for earliest career 10. Kiya Johnson got her first 10 on her 16th routine, and Konnor got her first 10 on her 3rd routine.

Anyway, let’s get right into things. Here’s the standard preamble: the links will take you to a thread of all six routines from a given rotation, scores in parenthesis reflect my personal judgment of deductions and scores in brackets reflect my overall score of the routine. Anyway, let’s finally get into this thing.

LSU Beam 48.750 (LSU in 4th after 1)

This was a decent rotation save for the two falls, and the scoring was tight to open up. Alexis Jeffrey led the way with a 9.775. She had a good wolf turn, a good cat leap to straddle quarter with flexed feet (.05), a good back handspring (BHS) layout step-out (LOSO) on which she slid a good back after landing (.05), a ridiculous save on her standing front that nearly missed the beam (.1 for each foot sliding back on landing, but more would be acceptable) and finished with a stuck roundoff (RO) back 1.5. She held the finishing position for a full second. That standing front save is why she was my lead off after Gym 101. [9.800]

Annie Beard followed up with her collegiate debut, and it could’ve gone better than the 9.225 she ended up getting. She started with a little leg form issue (.05) in her BHS LOSO on which she failed to check her balance (.05) and fell (.5). She remounted the beam, hit a beautiful full turn, hit her switch leap to a cheated (.05) but well split straddle half to beat jump, hit a great side aerial and finished with a stuck cat leap to gainer full. She held the finishing position for a full second. I have trouble noticing most foot form issues, so that could’ve brought her score down, but give Annie a ton of credit. She didn’t let the fall phase her at all and showed off her talent. [9.350]

Sierra Ballard ended up having to follow the fall, and she hit an angry 9.775. First off, Bart Conner must’ve had his notes mixed up when he said that Sierra was the lead off on beam for much of last year instead of floor. Anyway, she had a little leg form (.05) and a slight balance check (.05) on her BHS LOSO, hit a nice full turn, was short on both her sissonne (.05) and her switch half (.05), nailed her kickover front and finished with a RO back 1.5 on which she stepped forward (.1). She stepped back (.1) into the finishing position and failed to hold it for a full second (.05). She had a ton of determination to do this well, and she succeeded. [9.550]

Haleigh Bryant followed with a 9.900 on a 9.95/9.85 split. She hit her front aerial to BHS, hit her switch leap to cheated (.05) and short (.05) straddle quarter, hit her full turn, hit her standing front, barely hit her split jump and finished with a stuck punch Rudi. She held the finishing position for a full second. It’s so close to being the gym slam routine. [9.900]

Kiya Johnson followed up with a confusing 9.375. This is going to be a lot of information, so I urge you to refer to the routine in the linked thread above. It began with a rather simple hit full turn and followed with an incredible and wavy (.1 for how wavy it was) save on her BHS LOSO. She then went for her dance series, a split jump to split jump combination. She hit the first one, but she didn’t do a second one. That meant she needed to do a combination of two dance skills, jumps or splits or aerials, to get her start value to a 10.0. She then nailed her front toss as if it were on a floor. In an attempt to make up for her missing dance series, Kiya retried the intended set of skills, hit a split jump connected to a hit split jump, and finished with a stuck RO double full with her momentum carrying through the landing (.05). She held the finishing position for a full second. Also, there was an insufficient sureness of performance throughout (.05, done to punish her bailing on the second split jump). Kiya’s attempt to get her SV back to a 10.0 was in vain because a gymnast can’t do the same skill three times. Below is a diagram of what happened to her start value as created by Twitter user and friend @PNWgymnastics. The top is her intended routine and the bottom is what she did. [9.400]

Off the complicated and to the end, Aleah Finnegan finished the rotation with a 9.925. She hit her BHS LO LOSO, hit her switch leap to split jump with a slight check on the landing (.05), hit a beautiful full turn and finished with a stuck gainer full. She appeared to hold the finishing position for about a second, but her heavy salute near the end was borderline, so I will not credit it (.05) yet won’t criticize a judge for crediting it. This was fantastic, though, and that’s becoming the norm. [9.900]

Overall, this was a mental rotation. It wasn’t ability that marred the team, it was focus. That’s not just my opinion but the coaching staff’s opinion, too.

LSU Floor 49.525 (LSU in 3rd after 2)

Just like in the opener, the Tigers bounced back from a weak beam rotation with a strong floor rotation. Sierra got things going with a 9.825. She stuck her double layout (DLO) but moved her front foot to show some control issues (.05), hit a nice back 1.5 to front layout (FLO), hit a switch ring to a short switch half (.05) and finished with a stuck double pike through which her momentum carried (.05). This was a solid start. [9.850]

Livvy Dunne followed with a 9.850 on a 9.90/9.80 split. She started with a slide back (.05) on the landing of her front through to double tuck, hit her switch leap to ok (can’t tell due to camera angle) switch ring, did a Y-turn that shouldn’t have been credited (taking .1 and leaving because this is too close to the next meet already), and finished with a stuck double pike on which she moved her front foot (.05). It was good, and hopefully it improves over time. [9.800]

KJ Johnson was next and hit a 9.925. She nailed her full-in, picked up her foot (.05) on her back 1.5 to FLO that she threw out too early, hit her switch side to Popa with flexed feet (.05) and finished with a step forward (.1) out of her double tuck. It’s getting hard to say anything new about KJ’s performance quality when it’s so high from the start. [9.800]

Aleah followed with an event-title-winning 9.975. She nailed her double Arabian to stag jump, hit her switch ring to tour jete half, nailed her 2.5 to front tuck and barely hit her switch leap. The only deduction possible could come from the split jump because the 180 split was for a split second. If she holds it for a tiny bit longer, it’s a no-doubt 10. [10.0]

Haleigh kept the floor party going with a 9.900. She underrotated (.05) her front double front and stepped back (.1), hit her switch leap, hit her switch full but cheated the turn (.05), hit her back layout to front aerial and hit her FLO to Rudi. The front double front hasn’t been an issue in the past, so hopefully it gets cleaned up soon. [9.850]

Kiya made her return to the competition floor after a year with 9.875. She had a big bounce back (.1) on her full-in, hit a beautiful back 1.5 to FLO, was short on her switch side (.05) but hit her Popa and finished with a slight slide back (.05) on her double pike. She was beaming and she looked decent, so hopefully a bit more practice can get her to dial in those landings. [9.800]

Overall, this was another showing of the great fight this team has after a poor rotation. I’m impressed by how they’ve looked so early in the season.

LSU Vault 49.225 (LSU in 4th after 3)

This rotation looked a group of people feeding a bit too much on the hype from the floor rotation. It didn’t start that way when KJ nailed her Yurchenko Full (YF) for a 9.925. She held the finishing position for a full second and the mechanics of it were as good as she’s ever done. I saw nothing worth deducting. [9.950]

Amari Drayton followed with a 9.825 on her Yurchenko 1.5 (Y1.5). She had leg separation (.05) in her first flight, uncontrolled (.05) step forward (.1) on her landing and a step back (.1) to the finishing position, something she didn’t hold for the full second she needed (.05). This wasn’t as good as her first vault, but the podium is weird and does messy things. [9.450]

Aleah followed up with her Omelianchik for a 9.800. She threw it out too late and had to step forward (.1) and move a bit to keep her balance (.05), then she stepped back (.1) to the finishing position and failed to hold it for a full second (.05). It’s fine. [9.700]

Savannah Schoenherr followed up with an unintentional YF and a 9.700. She piked it down (.05) and landed with an uncontrolled (.05) step back (.1). She then stepped forward (.1) and never hit the finishing position (.05). She was clearly lost in the air and flushed it once it was over. [9.600]

Kiya followed with a 9.775 on her Yurchenko Double (DTY). She had leg separation (.05) in the first flight, clearly underrotated (.1) her vault, landed with a low chest (.05) and a foot outside the guideline (.1). Then she stepped forward (.1), stepped back (.1) into the finishing position and failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). This was not good at all, but I’ll give her a pass for needing time to get back up to speed after a year off. That said, I wouldn’t be against taking her off vault to be healthier and better on other events. [9.450]

Haleigh finished things off with a 9.900 on her FHS front pike half. She hopped back on the landing (.1) and held the finishing position for a full second. It’s so nice writing about Haleigh’s gymnastics because you just say the skill and know it looked really good because it’s her. [9.900]

Overall, the vault judges were extremely lenient and let the Tigers get away with a lot. Those issues are things that get fixed in practice, though, and they’re nothing to be too concerned about right now.

LSU Bars 49.650 (LSU finishes 2nd)

My brain broke watching this rotation. This was a 6/6 stick rotation, and it began with Alexis’ 9.900. She hit her first handstand, bent her arms when catching her Maloney (.05), hit her bail handstand, hit her final handstand and stuck her half-in-half-out (HIHO) dismount. She failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). This was a very strong start. [9.900]

Tori Tatum made her 2024 debut with a 9.850. She hit her first handstand, hit her Ray, had some leg separation in her Pak (.05, judges can’t see that), was wobbly (.05 for form) on her hit low-bar half turn, hit her final handstand and had some leg separation (.05) in her stuck HIHO. She failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). What a solid return for the bars consistency queen last season. [9.800]

Kiya tied her career high on the event with a 9.950. She hit her first handstand, had bent arms in her Maloney (.05), hit her bail handstand, hit her third and fourth handstands and finished with a stuck pike-in layout that landed so well, she got to the finishing position immediately so she could hold it for the full second necessary. This was, without a doubt, one of Kiya’s best bars routines of her entire career. [9.950]

Konnor decided to one-up that with the aforementioned 10. She hit her first handstand, bent her elbows to catch her Church (.05), had some leg separation in her Pak (.05, judges can’t see it), had a nice handstand and great form on her low-bar half turn, hit her final handstand and stuck her HIHO. She held the finishing position for a full second. This was a superb routine for an incredible athlete. Also, she won the individual bars title with this routine, her first career NCAA individual meet title, but that’s less important. [9.900]

Sav followed with a 9.875 and a great rebound after her vault. She hit her first handstand, nailed her Jaeger, hit her second and third handstands, had a slight arch on her bail handstand (not deducting), hit her final handstand and stuck her double front half with a slight underswing (.05) of her arms to keep her balance. She held the finishing position for a full second. This feels like a score hampered by the ever inconsistent foot form deductions, but whatever, this was another fantastic routine. [9.950]

Haleigh finished off an incredible 39.625 all-around performance with a 9.925. She hit her first handstand, hit her Jaeger, hit her second handstand, hit her bail handstand, hit her final handstand and stuck her double front half with a slight balance adjustment (.05). She held the finishing position for a full second. She tends to flex her feet on this dismount, so the 9.925 is completely fair, but still, wow. [9.950]

49.650 is tied for the third-highest bars rotation score in LSU history with the 3/1/02 meet vs Kentucky and is the best road bars score in program history, beating the previous record of 49.600 at Arizona on 3/15/19. I tend to be pretty harsh when judging, but I somehow got the same total score, so it feels pretty legitimate. If that’s the standard for bars this year, it’s going to be a good year.

Overall thoughts:

This team will be lethal when they fix beam. Also vault looked messy, but that could’ve been the result of an adrenaline rush. Either way, this was a solid improvement over the opener. The bars lineup is set up to succeed thanks to two people in particular: Alexis and Kiya. Alexis is a solid lead who hits well and has great lines, and Kiya sets the back half of the lineup for a strong finish. Alexis is the Shane Spencer to Kiya’s Derek Jeter to Haleigh’s Jorge Posada in the famous play from the 2001 ALCS.

The next meet is the SEC opener against Kentucky at 8:00 Friday. Let’s hope there are no equipment malfunctions or major injuries this time.