LSU’s third-ranked gymnastics team advanced to the NCAA national championships for the 31st time in school history on Saturday night by scoring 197.750 and finishing second in the NCAA Salt Lake City Region.
Utah took the top spot with a 197. 925 on Saturday night. LSU’s score was the second best in an NCAA Regional in school history and the best away from Baton Rouge. Arizona State and Kentucky finished in third place with a score of 197.600.
The Tigers will compete in NCAA Semifinal II at the Dickies Center in Fort Worth, Texas, on April 16. The second session will feature No.1 Oklahoma, No. 6 Utah and No. 7 Alabama. No.1 Florida, No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Cal and No. 8 Minnesota also advanced to the NCAA Championships.
“We survived and advanced tonight,” LSU coach Jay Clark said. “I loved the fight in these kids. This was an incredible regional and it came to the very end. It felt like a national championship tonight. We had such great energy all day and you could feel it for this meet. I am especially proud of this senior class. They really got it done today. They showed up today and never let up.”
A night after LSU’s poor performance in the balance beam almost eliminated LSU from the regional, the Tigers clinched a berth in the nationals with a 49.525, LSU’s best beam score ever in a road regional.
Senior Reagan Campbell anchored the beam with a 9.925. Fellow senior Sami Durante, who fell off the beam Friday night, rebounded with a 9.95. Senior Bridget Dean also delivered a 9.925 for the Tigers. Senior Christina Desiderio scored a 9.90 to start the lineup, Sophomore Alyona was inserted the lineup at the last minute and scored 9.825
LSU opened the meet with a 49.475 on the floor exercise. Desiderio opened the meet with a 9.875. Shchennikova and Sierra Ballard each scored 9.90, followed by senior Sarah Edwards with 9.85 and sophomore anchor Kira Johnson with 9.95.
The Tigers scored 49.475 in the vault, led by freshman Haleigh Bryant’s perfect score of 10.0. She joined Ashleigh-Clare Kearney and Jennifer Wood as the only gymnasts in school history to score a perfect 10 on vault at an NCAA Regional.
LSU had to have a big finish on the beam because they faltered on the uneven bars 49.275 to fall to third place at 148.225 entering the final rotation.