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LSU Arkansas Meet Recap

LSU puts up massive total in solid performance

Well that was fun!

LSU bounced back in a big way from their last meet on Friday night with a program record-earning performance in their 198.475-196.200 over Arkansas to move to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the SEC. Head coach Jay Clark picked up his 100th career win as a head coach in the process. LSU earned at least a share of every event title in a meet for the first time since the 2023 West Virginia meet.

Haleigh Bryant and Konnor McClain win SEC Weekly Awards

That’s much more like it. For the third time this season, once again after a home meet, Haleigh won SEC Gymnast of the Week. She posted a 39.825 in the all-around, the second-best score in school history, and put up a 10 on floor. Her 9.975 on vault earned her the 26th vault title of her career, which ties Sandra Smith for third in LSU history. She also won her 22nd all-around title to tie Ashleigh Clare-Kearney for 4th in LSU history.

Konnor McClain won SEC Co-Freshman of the Week along with Georgia’s Lily Smith for her performance. As far as I can tell, her 9.975 to lead off floor is the highest lead-off score on any event in LSU history, a statement that should not be true because Erin Macadaeg was the best beam lead-off in SEC and potentially NCAA history, but I digress. It was Konnor’s first time leading off any event and only happened because Sierra’s ankles weren’t feeling so great after the ankle-crunching landing she had on her double pike.

Preamble on judging and rules

First of all, I want to apologize for misinforming you, the reader, about how two rules work. First of all, a recent clarification by the NAWGJ, the people who are responsible for the judges, clarified that gymnasts must hold the finishing position for a full second with full control of their landing. I’d misinterpreted the rule, so I must thank them for clarifying. The other one is regarding a deduction I’d been taking for stepping into the finishing position. That’s only a deduction if the step comes with the foot that stayed planted in the initial step. It’s like how you can move your pivot foot in basketball but not your plant foot. That’s entirely on my lack of knowledge, and it’s my job to do better, sorry.

Speaking of people who need to do better at their jobs, I need to talk about the judging in this meet and in general. The judging in this meet got criticized heavily by many people online including myself, a person who was in the building trying not to lose their mind. Scores are the only thing that matter in this sport, it’s not about wins and losses, so when judges fail to apply the code properly, the sport loses some legitimacy. Multiple scores in this meet, mostly ones given to LSU gymnasts, were either a bit loose or outright impossible based on the code. I got really hung up on this myself and found myself acting out of anger, but when I calmed down, I realized something: why let the judges ruin my enjoyment of an awesome and fun sport? That’s why from this point going forward, I’m deemphasizing judging and emphasizing performances. I’ll still give scores and deduct, but that will be secondary to whether the routine itself was good and showed growth. Also it’s February, let’s spice things up a bit as the season hits the halfway point (yes that’s too fast).

Here’s the standard preamble: the links will take you to a thread of every routine from a given rotation, scores in parenthesis reflect my personal judgment of deductions and scores in brackets reflect my overall score of the routine. I will not be scoring any exhibitions. Also, I don’t have either of Kylie Coen’s exhibition scores for some reason. I know she got a 9.800 and a 9.750, but I don’t know which score goes to which routine. Oh well, the points don’t matter.

LSU Vault 49.525 (LSU leads 49.525-48.175)

This was a better vault rotation than the last one. KJ Johnson led off with her Yurchenko Full (YF) and scored a 9.875. She stuck the vault cleanly and she held the finishing position for a full second, but she forgot to bring her heels together in the stick (.05), the first of many mental errors for LSU that weren’t reflected in the scores. Still, it was nice to see the drought of 22 straight vaults without a clean stick end. [9.900]

After a long delay due to the vault table getting broken, a real equipment malfunction, Aleah Finnegan followed up with a 9.875 on her Omelianchik. She stepped forward (.1), waved her body a bit to show a lack of balance (.05) and failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). It was an improvement over her meet at Mizzou, but she can stick it. [9.800]

Amari Drayton followed up with a 9.900 on a 9.95/9.85 split on her Yurchenko 1.5 (Y1.5). She took a controlled step forward (.1) and failed to hold the finishing position for a full second. This was good for a vault that didn’t stick. Had she held the finishing position for a full second, it’d be a nice, acceptable 9.9+ score that any team would love. [9.850]

Savannah Schoenherr scored a 9.800 on her Y1.5. She had clear underrotation (.1) and hopped back (.1), then she failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). She’s capable of better, but she did enough to have me feel good about where she is with her vault. [9.750]

Kiya Johnson followed with a 9.900 on her Yurchenko double. She had some leg separation (.05) in her first flight and a hop back (.1), and she failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). It was a fine vault. [9.800]

Haleigh finished things off with a 9.975 on her frond handspring front pike half. Momentum carried through her landing (.05) and she failed to hold a controlled finishing position (.05). That’s why I don’t care about scores as much as performances: the score here lies and tells you this was nearly perfect. Haleigh Bryant does not need gifts. She is enough of a gift already. [9.900]

Chase Brock did an exhibition of a YF and got a 9.800. She had a slight hop, a balance adjustment and she failed to hold the finishing position for a full second. I don’t know why she hasn’t done her Y1.5 again this year after nailing it almost the entirety of last season, but this was good to see.

Overall, this was a solid vault rotation. Hold the finishing position, a simple task that requires resting. The landings weren’t sticks mostly, but they were good for not being sticks.

LSU Bars 49.550 (LSU leads 99.075-97.375)

This wasn’t LSU’s best bars rotation of the season, but it was solid. The camera angles were awful and I ended up crediting every handstand as a hit, so I’m going to ignore almost all of them and talk about the rest of the routines. Alexis Jeffrey led off with a 9.875. She had bent arms (.05) in her Maloney and stepped back (.1) on her half-in-half-out (HIHO). She failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). One thing about her HIHO I noticed was a distinct lack of lateral travel, and when she does that, she steps back. Solid start, though. [9.800]

Ashley Cowan followed up with a 9.775, the only score LSU had below 9.8. She went over on her first handstand (.05), bent her arms (.05) to catch her Ray, nailed her overshoot and stepped back (.1) on her double layout (DLO, I was misjudging how it looked before). She failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). This was the good kind of aggressive routine with the good kind of aggressive mistakes. It’s indicative of someone who wants to do better. [9.750]

Kiya was next with a 9.900 on a 9.95/9.85 split. She bent her arms to catch her Maloney (.05) and stuck her DLO, but she failed to hold the finishing position for a full second. This was about as close to perfect as I’ve seen Kiya do on bars. If you can nitpick this routine, leave. [9.900]

Konnor followed up with a 9.925. She bent her arms (.05) to catch her Church, had some leg separation (.05) in her Pak, and finished with an overdone HIHO that caused her to hit the landing with a slight balance check (.05) and momentum carrying through the landing (.05). She steps back (.1) before turning and never hits the finishing position (.05). This was rock solid until the dismount, but she’s still not 100% on that yet. Yes, she has a 10, but that was that one time in 50 she nails her dismount, a number that needs to drop over time. [9.650]

Sav earned her first event title as a Tiger and 10th of her career with a 9.950. She bent her arms (.05) to catch her Jaeger and stuck her double front half, but she failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). This was a good routine, though the handstands looked really iffy to me. It had good flow and was another sign of Sav’s resilience on bars. [9.900]

Haleigh finished things off with a 9.900. She bent her arms (.05) to catch her Jaeger, stepped back on her double front half (.1) and failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). It was clean until the dismount, and that’s what matters on bars. Dismounts are the hard part compared to everything else. [9.800]

Livvy Dunne had an exhibition routine on bars and got a 9.775. It was a solid routine until the dismount, though it had the unfortunate problem of an imprecise low bar half turn again. Also, the dismount had a bit of a wonky form with soft knees and a DLO that didn’t lay out too much.

Amari got a 9.550 on her bars exhibition. It was okay until the dismount, though it also had low bar half turn issues, but she didn’t connect the full turn to her double tuck for some reason. This routine feels like a work in progress.

Overall, it was a good bars rotation, but you may have noticed a pattern. 1/12 routines have ended with a held finishing position for a full second. That’s .550 in deductions. Only two were because of a ton of momentum keeping them out of the position, the rest were mental errors. Those add up in closer meets. The routines were fine, but the dismounts could’ve been cleaner.

LSU Beam 49.625 (LSU leads 148.700-146.750)

Another hit beam rotation? That’s nice. Sierra Ballard led off with a 9.900 on a 9.95/9.85 split. She had a solid back handspring (BHS) layout step out (LOSO) with a soft knee (.05) to start, a beautiful full turn, a hit sissonne to short (.05) switch half, a great kickover front and a stuck roundoff (RO) back 1.5. She held the finishing position for a full second! This was one of her best routines ever. She’s really dialed in and it’s fantastic to see. [9.900]

Alexis followed up with a 9.875. She had a good wolf turn, a cat leap to switch side with noticeably flexed feet (.05) and a lean (.05), a good BHS LOSO, a low landing with hips at the knees (.05) on her standing front and a stuck RO back 1.5. She failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). Annie Beard’s struggles had me wondering if we’d see Alexis in this meet, and not only did she appear, she showed up. [9.800]

Konnor followed up with a 9.975. She hit her leap series, hit her front aerial to BHS, nailed her wolf jump, wobbled (.05) on her full turn, nailed her side aerial, stuck her gainer full and failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). This is the stuff LSU’s needed on beam for a while. [9.900]

Kiya followed up with her second consecutive 9.900 on a 9.95/9.85 split. She had a good full turn, a check (.05) on her BHS LOSO, a hit split jump to split jump, a great standing front and a hop back on her RO back double full (.1). She failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). It was a good routine, but her standards are so high that a routine with a hop and a check are just fine. [9.800]

Haleigh followed with a 9.950. She had a great front aerial to BHS, a hit leap series, a good full turn, a big balance check (.1) on her standing front, a short (.05) split jump and stuck standing punch Rudi. She failed to hold the finishing position for a full second (.05). The mistakes were minimal, but they were odd. She always hits that split and she had issues with the standing front most of last season. Hopefully this was a fluke. [9.800]

Aleah finished the rotation with a 9.900. She had a huge wobble (.2) on her BHS LO LOSO, hit her leap series, had a slight issue (.05) on her full turn, hit her front aerial, stuck her gainer full and held the finishing position for a full second. She came really close to coming off the beam again, but her fight to stay on was great. Hopefully that’s not something she has to do too often. [9.750]

Kylie’s beam exhibition was pretty solid and showed a lot of promise. It was more unpolished and rough around the edges than anything else, and that’s a good sign.

Overall, this was a nice, clean beam rotation, and there isn’t much more to ask for.

LSU Floor 49.775 (LSU wins 198.475-196.200)

LSU tied their program record on floor with what I thought was their second-best floor rotation of the year. As mentioned earlier, Konnor led off with a 9.975. She had a slight slide back (.05) on her DLO, a hit switch leap to cheated (.05) switch full, and a back 1.5 to front layout (FLO) with a slight lack of control (.05). Wow is the only thing that comes to mind. [9.850]

Amari followed with a 9.900 on a 9.95/9.85 split. She had a slide back (.05) on her DLO, a low chest (.05) on her stuck front through to double tuck (FTDT), a good wolf turn and a good switch ring to switch half. This was a great routine that’s becoming a fixture of the lineup, though that may be difficult when there are 8 extremely viable routines. [9.900]

KJ pulled herself from the lineup due to dizziness, so Livvy took her spot in the lineup and delivered a 9.875. She had a great FTDT, a short switch leap (.05) to hit switch ring, a cheated (.05) Y turn and a stuck double pike. She’s got a good floor routine and it’s so nice to see it back in action. [9.900]

Aleah followed with a 9.925 on a 10.0/9.85 split, the ugliest split there is. She lacked control (.05) on her overdone double Arabian (you have to be incredibly talented to overdo that) to stag jump, hit her switch ring, hit her tour jete half, nailed her 2.5 to punch front with a massive finish, hit her split jump and hit the nail check before the end, something she only does if she feels a routine was spectacular. I don’t think I could do this routine the justice Lyn Rollins gave it, that was “hotter than a pepper sprout.” [9.950]

Haleigh followed up with her 12th 10.0 of her career. She had a slight slide (.05) out of her front double front, a hit switch leap to cheated (.05) switch half, a good back LOSO, a good front aerial and a perfect FLO to Rudi. It wasn’t the best front double front she’s ever done, but it was the best she’s done this year, and that’s really nice to see. [9.900]

Kiya finished things off with a remarkable 9.975. She began with the best full-in I’ve ever seen her do, followed with a great back 1.5 to FLO, hit her switch side to a cheated (.05) Popa and slid back (.05) on her double pike. Leave it to the great Mike Smith for dropping the words to describe this beauty of a routine. “She’s not just back folks, she’s WAAAAAAAAAY back!” [9.900]

Kylie ended the night with a good exhibition routine with some solid twisting. There’s spots that need to be cleaned up, but it was quite good for her first time in front of a massive crowd.

Overall, this may not have been the best executed floor rotation of the season, but it was the most confident floor rotation of the season. Every routine looked like it was being done to hype the crowd up and it delivered.

Overall thoughts

LSU didn’t have their best performance of the year, that was the Kentucky meet in my opinion, but they had a very good showing. They bounced back strong, they found their landings where they didn’t before and they turned the page. They still haven’t shown it on the road, but they’ll get that opportunity later today when they face Georgia.