Freshman Bryant leads Tigers’ gymnasts to SEC win at Arkansas

LSU’s Haleigh Bryant followed her SEC Freshman Gymnast of the Week honors by taking her performance up a notch Friday night.

In just her second college meet, Bryant won the all-around as the Tigers scored a 197.225 to 196.625 league road win at Arkansas.

Bryant, who scored 9.900 or higher in three of four events, finished with a 39.600. It’s the second highest all-around score by a collegiate gymnast this year.

Bryant, fellow freshman Olivia Dunne and sophomore Alyona Shchennikova all scored 9.900 or better on the uneven parallel bars, LSU’s first event, as the Tigers (2-0, 1-0) took the lead after the first rotation and never trailed.

First-year LSU head coach Jay Clark had a nice mix, using five seniors, two sophomores and four freshmen, and almost everyone contributed.

LSU individually captured just the all-around with Bryant and the floor exercise with Bryant and Kiya Johnson each scoring 9.950. As a team, the Tigers won uneven parallel bars and balance beam.

Overall, the Tigers’ depth showed up big in several areas.

LSU had five of the top six finishers in the uneven parallel bars, four of the top seven in the beam, three of the top six in vault and the top two in the floor exercise.

The Tigers exited the first rotation (LSU uneven parallel bars, Arkansas vault) with a .775 advantage.

In the second rotation, Arkansas fell completely apart on the uneven parallel bars with gymnasts Kennedy Hambrick (8.950) and Gillan Rutz (9.125) breaking their routines. The Hogs had to count Rutz’s score and Arkansas 48.650 wasn’t enough to offset LSU’s vault performance.

The Tigers’ vaulters picked up momentum as they went through its lineup with Bryant’s 9.850 giving the Tigers a final of 49.100 in the event. LSU led by 0.725 after two rotations.

In the third rotation, it was LSU’s floor exercise group, a strength in the season opening win over the Razorbacks vs. the Arkansas balance beam team, which had two competitors fall off the beam.

It happened again to Hogs as Rutz, Arkansas’ second competitor in the event, fell off the beam. But LSU initially wasn’t clean in the floor exercise either as senior Christina Desiderio underpowered a couple of flips, stumbled forward to regain balance and scored just a 9.4.

Like a week ago in the floor exercise, LSU relied heavily on its last three competitors and didn’t disappoint. Senior Sarah Edwards scored 9.875, Bryant (who had a 9.975 last week as the second-best score in the country behind teammate Johnson’s perfect 10) followed with 9.95 and sophomore Johnson mirrored Bryant’s 9.95.

The Tigers and Arkansas each scored 49.325 in the floor ex and balance beam respectively as LSU maintained a 0.725 lead entering the final rotation of LSU on the beam and Hogs on the floor ex.

LSU changed its beam lineup, leading off with freshman Elena Arenas scoring 9.825 leading off instead of Desiderio. Bryant (9.900), senior Bridget Dean (9.900, a career best) and senior Sami Durante (9.850) kept the Tigers enough ahead to survive Johnson’s 9.05 when she fell off the beam.

Team scores by event

Vault: Arkansas 49.150, LSU 49.100

Uneven parallel bars: LSU 49.425, Arkansas 48.650

Balance Beam: LSU 49.375, Arkansas 48.650

Floor exercise: Arkansas 49.,500, LSU 49.375

Individual event winners

Floor exercise: Kaleigh Bryant (LSU) and Kyra Johnson (LSU), 9.950

Vault: Kennedy Hambrick (Arkansas) 9.900

Bars: Maggie O’Hara (Arkansas), 9.950

Beam: Maggie O’ Hara (Arkansas), 9.925

All-Around: Kaleigh Bryant, LSU 39.600

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Ron Higgins

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