LSU gymnastics sets school record in nail-biter to claim first national title

LSU gymnastics claimed its first national championship in school history behind a record-setting beam performance. PHOTO BY: LSU Athletics

The NCAA Gymnastics Championship couldn’t have been much closer.

Just 0.15 separated the top three teams heading into the final rotation with a national title on the line. Aleah Finnegan, with LSU’s national title hopes on her back, hit her routine on beam. She knew it from the moment she landed, and the tears started flowing.

LSU claimed its first national championship in school history in a nail-biter. The Tigers set a school record on beam to do it.

LSU got to show off its No. 1 ranked floor team first. Things got off to a smooth start when Konnor McClain started with a 9.9250 and Amari Drayton added a 9.9125, but KJ Johnson suffered a fall during her routine.

KJ Johnson’s 9.2875 put pressure on the remaining routines to ensure the Tigers didn’t count a fall. Aleah Finnegan, Haleigh Bryant and Kiya Johnson didn’t cave to the pressure though, and LSU finished the event without counting anything less than a 9.9125.

LSU led the way after the first rotation with a 49.6125. Cal sat in second with a 49.4750, Utah sat in third with a 49.375 and Florida sat in fourth with a 49.2500.

LSU had a rough start up next on vault. KJ Johnson started with a 9.8000, Finnegan had a 9.8375 and Drayton had a 9.8250. Savannah Schoenherr brought the score up with a 9.8750 and Kiya Johnson and Bryant closed the event on a high note.

Kiya Johnson got LSU its first 9.9 on vault with a 9.9125 and Bryant scored a 9.9500 in the anchor spot to give the Tigers a 49.400. They were still in first with an overall score of 99.0125, but Utah was close behind with a 98.9125 and bars and beam behind it. Cal wasn’t far away with a 98.8500 and Florida had a 98.7250.

LSU started the next rotation strong with a 9.9000 on bars from Alexis Jeffery and a 9.8875 from Ashley Cowan and Kiya Johnson. McClain got a 9.9000 and Bryant had an uncharacteristic step on her landing in the anchor to score a 9.8750. LSU finished with a 49.4500.

The Tigers 148.4625 dropped them from first place to second and handed Utah the lead with one rotation to go. Utah had vault for the final event with a 148.5000 as LSU headed to beam. Cal sat in third with a 148.3500, and Florida was in fourth with a 147.9625. Just 0.15 separated the top three teams.

Utah and Cal both started with poor scores to put pressure on the remainder of their lineups. Utah’s Camie Winger started on vault with a 9.2875 and Cal’s Mya Lauzon started with a 9.4750. Sierra Ballard had the opposite start for LSU with a 9.9500 to open on the beam.

Utah’s second score was a 9.6750 and the earlier fall meant it was guaranteed to count it. Schoenherr fell in the second spot for LSU to put the pressure back on the remainder of the Tigers’ lineup.

But if the pressure was on for the Tigers, they didn’t show it. McClain nailed her routine to score a 9.962, the highest beam score of the night. Kiya Johnson, Bryant and Finnegan all scored 9.9500. LSU scored its highest score of the night with a 49.7625 on beam with the title on the line. The score was its highest on beam in school history.

LSU chants rang around the arena as soon as Finnegan finished her routine. The Tigers won with a 198.225. Cal came second with a 197.8500, Utah came third with a 197.800 and Florida came fourth with a 197.4375.

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Will Nickel

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