LSU gymnasts Haleigh Bryant and Kiya Johnson win major SEC honors

In LSU gymnastics, it’s all about following in the footsteps of past Tigers’ greats.

Like on Wednesday when LSU gymnasts Haleigh Bryant and Kiya Johnson earned two of the SEC’s highest honors voted by the head coaches from each institution.

Bryant was named the 2021 SEC Freshman of the Year, following sophomore Johnson who won the same award a year ago.

Johnson was tabbed as the 2021 SEC Specialist of the Year following first-year Tigers’ assistant Ashleigh Gnat, who the award in 2016 and 2017 after Lloimincia Hall won in 2015.

The SEC also announced Bryant, Johnson, Elena Arenas and Alyona Shchennikova as All-SEC performers. Arenas captured the vault title with a 9.95 on her Yurchenko Full. Shchennikova finished with a 9.925 on vault for second overall. Arenas and Bryant were also named to the SEC All-Freshman team.

“We are so excited for both Haleigh and Kiya to be recognized at this level,” head coach Jay Clark said. “It is a tremendous accomplishment for our program and a glimpse of what is on the horizon for us all. We have a team full of great gymnasts and are proud of each and every one of them.”

Bryant earned a share of the vault title at the 2021 SEC championships with a 9.95, the seventh LSU freshman to win an SEC title. Nationally, she finished the season third on vault (9.956 NQS), fourth on vault (9.956 NQS) and ninth in the all-around (39.594 NQS), the highest rankings by any SEC freshman.

She has career highs of 10 on vault, 9.90 on bars, 9.9 on beam, 9.975 on floor and 39.625 in the all-around. Bryant is the only freshman in the SEC and just one of two in the country to score a 10 this season.

In her debut season, she scored a 9.90 or better eight times on vault and seven times on floor. In nine meets, Bryant won 11 total titles with five on vault, four in the all-around and two on floor. She was also named the SEC Freshman of the Week six times and Gymnast of the Week once.

Johnson was an obvious choice for Specialist of the Year since she scored a perfect 10.0 three of the four times she competed in the floor exercise.

One of those 10s was her floor ex title in the league championships. She became the 10th gymnast in conference history to score a 10.0 on the floor exercise at the SEC Championships. Johnson joined fellow LSU gymnasts Sarah Finnegan (2019) and Ashleigh Gnat (2017) as the only competitors to score a 10 at the SEC meet on floor in the past five years.

Johnson finished the season as the top performer in the country on floor. Also, she’s with Trinity Thomas of Florida and Anastasia Webb of Oklahoma for the most perfect scores in the country this season, with Johnson and Thomas the only gymnasts with multiple perfect scores on floor.

She also has an NQS of 9.925 on vault, tying her for 12th place nationally, after scoring 9.95 three times this season. Johnson has recorded season highs of 9.95 on vault, 9.925 on bars, 9.925 on beam and 10.0 on floor.

The third-ranked Tigers next compete as the top seed in the NCAA Salt Lake City Regional April 2-3.

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Tiger Rag News Services

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