On a Friday night when LSU’s best gymnast was limited to one event while nursing an injury and when there were a couple of stumbles along the way, the No. 5 ranked Tigers flexed their depth.
LSU won all four events as a team and individually with four different Tigers taking firsts in a 197.200-196.375 SEC victory over 11th ranked Georgia at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Even with sophomore Kiya Johnson limited to the uneven bars – she scored a 9.875 – to rest a nagging Achilles tendon, LSU (3-0 overall, 2-0 SEC) rose to the challenge by taking five of the six top places in each the vault and balance beam, and four of the top six in the floor exercise.
“We can’t ride the same horse all the time, great teams don’t have to do that,” LSU coach Jay Clark said. “We got to prove that to ourselves tonight and the outcome was what it was because we needed others to get some experience.”
LSU scored season highs in the vault (49.275) and the floor exercise (49.350), the opening and closing events.
“The way we started and the way we finished were really impressive,” Clark said. “The first and the last events are going to bode well for us down the line.
“We talked about wanting to start fast. Anytime you’ve got probably the best vaulter (Johnson) in the country out, new faces have to go.”
Those newbies were certainly good, especially emerging star freshman Haleigh Bryant. The reigning SEC Gymnast of the Week won the all-around for the second straight meet and lit the fuse for her teammates by winning the vault to open Friday’s competition with a score of 9.900.
Yet it was a trio of seniors – Sami Durante, Reagan Campbell and Sarah Edwards – winning the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise respectively that provided momentum to overcome a couple of gaffes.
“We needed people to step up tonight and that’s what we did,” said Durante, who won the uneven bars with a 9.90 after she placed tied for third in the vault with a 9.850.
Bridget Dean, a senior who didn’t win an event, played a key role in the final two rotations after she missed a re-grip in the uneven bars, fell and finished with a non-usable score of 9.150.
She rebounded by tying for third on the beam with a 9.875 and then scored a career-best 9.900 to tie teammate Alyona Shchennikova for second in the floor exercise.
“Bridget opened up the floor with maybe the best floor routine I’ve ever seen her do,” Clark said. “It’s a good feeling when you know you’ve got seniors in those roles that they play. Again, they don’t get all the press clippings they deserve. But they set the tone.”
LSU travels to Auburn next Friday for a 4 p.m. CT ESPN2 televised meet.
Team scores by event
Vault: LSU 49.275, Georgia 49.000
Uneven parallel bars: LSU 49.125, Georgia 49.075
Balance Beam: LSU 49.350, Georgia 49.125
Floor exercise: LSU 49.450, Georgia 49.175
Individual event winners
Vault: Haleigh Bryant (LSU) 9.900
Bars: Sami Durante (LSU) 9.900
Floor exercise: Sarah Edwards (LSU) 9.925
Beam: Reagan Campbell (LSU), 9.995
All-Around: Haleigh Bryant, LSU 39.475