The story lines run thick for Friday night’s SEC gymnastics battle in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center between No. 5 LSU (2-0, 1-0 SEC) and No. 11 Georgia (1-1, 0-1 SEC).
For starters, new LSU coach Jay Clark is a University of Georgia alum and was on the Bulldogs’ gymnastics staff for more than 25 years including three seasons as head coach from 2009 to 2012.
“It’s a meet we need to win because it’s an SEC meet,” Clark said, discounting any past negative feelings about his dismissal at Georgia nine years ago. “I’m a Tiger, I’m LSU, that’s where I am, that’s who we are, that’s who our family is now. . .we are dyed-in-the-wool LSU Tigers at this point and I don’t really give it another thought.”
Then, there’s the fact Danna Durante, the mother of LSU senior Sami Durante, followed Clark as Georgia’s head coach of the Bulldogs.
“At this point, it’s like every other meet, so I don’t put too much thought into it,” Sami Durante said.
Also, LSU freshman Haleigh Bryant, the SEC’s current Gymnast of the Week, grew up in the state of Georgia and trained at Georgia All Stars before moving to North Carolina at the end of 2010.
Tigers’ freshman Elena Arenas trained at Georgia Elite Gymnastics, which is owned by her parents Pete and Kim. Pete played baseball and Kim Arnold won two NCAA all-around titles for the Bulldogs where she was coached by Clark.
Finally, LSU freshman Sierra Ballard’s mother is Lori Strong Ballard, an Olympian and gymnast at the University of Georgia.
Now, digest all those subplots and save room for what promises to a neck-and-neck competition.
Last Friday, LSU went into Arkansas and scored a 197.275, which marked the highest in the nation in week two and second-highest road score in the nation this season.
Bryant won the all-around title with a 39.600, the third highest score nationally this season and the best by a freshman.
The all-around score is the highest for any LSU freshman in their debut, and she is the fifth gymnast to score a 39.600 or higher in their first season.
Friday’s meet will be streamed live on SECNetwork+ through WatchESPN.com and the app. Lyn Rollins and Ashley Lee Scurria will call the meet. First vault will be at 7:35 p.m. CT and doors open at 6:15 p.m.
Fans are asked to arrive early and be in their seats for introductions beginning at 7:10 p.m. LSU Athletics will honor retired legendary gymnastics coach D-D Breaux following introductions for both teams.
Fans unable to attend the meet will be able to watch the ceremony live on LSU Gymnastics Facebook and Twitter pages.