LSU’s nationally ranked gymnastics team gave its home crowd a sneak peak into their deep and talented team during Saturday exhibition dubbed “Gymnastics 101” at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“It was extremely encouraging to see what we saw tonight. It takes incredible mental fortitude to do what they did tonight this early in the year, so I’m just proud of them,” LSU gymnastics coach Jay Clark said. “We’re certainly pleased with what we did tonight, but not satisfied. We are going to continue to iron out the wrinkles and get better, but I’m excited about the potential.”
LSU, ranked No. 2 in the College Gym News preseason Top 25 and No. 3 in the WCGA coaches’ poll, opens the 2024 season Jan. 5 at home against No. 14 Ohio State.
LSU, which hit on 48 of 50 routines with 19 of 22 gymnasts performing, split its team into two groups and alternated between two events to help prepare the Tigers in multi-team meets.
The meet featured the veteran duo of Cammy Hall and Kiya Johnson who returned from injuries last season along with freshmen Konnor McClain, Amari Drayton and Kylie Coehn, and newcomers Savannah Schoenherr and Jillian Hoffman.
“I was so pleased to have them (Kiya & Cammy) back,” Clark said. “It’s so nice to see Kiya look like Kiya. Having her influence and consistency back is so great for us.”
Ashley Cowan opened her second year with a solid floor routine in the first rotation as she stuck all passes. The rotation also featured Cohen followed by veterans Olivia Dunne, Hall, Bryce Wilson, Alexis Jeffrey and Drayton.
KJ Johnson ended the floor rotation with a new opening pass.
The rotation saw freshman Kylie Coen make her debut in front of the home audience in the second spot, followed by veteran senior Olivia Dunne in the third spot. In the fourth spot, sixth-year senior Cammy Hall made her debut as a Tiger after returning from injury last season followed by sophomore Bryce Wilson.
Alexis Jeffrey had a good routine in the sixth spot and freshman Amari Drayton’s debut routine was a hit with the crowd. Fan favorite KJ Johnson ended the floor rotation by debuting a new opening pass.
The beam also featured a debut from sophomore with veterans Alyona Shchennikova and Sierra Ballard following and freshman Konnor McClain. Senior Haleigh Bryant and Kiya Johnson were next and along with newcomer Schoenherr.
Sophomore Annie Beard continued the debuts on the night as she set the tone on beam with a poised routine. Veterans Alyona Schennikova and Sierra Ballard followed in the second and third spots with solid outings ahead of freshman Konnor McClain’s debut routine at spot four.
Senior Haleigh Bryant competed in the fifth spot and was followed by Kiya Johnson, who stuck the landing in her first routine since her injury early in the 2023 season. The final routine went to newcomer Savannah Schoenherr, who dazzled the attending audience for the first time in Purple & Gold.
Ballard and Schoenherr began the second rotation when the first group moved to the floor. Shchennokova and Chase Brock were next with the rotation ending with a tremendous routine from Bryant and a sold return from Kiya Johnson.
Wilson opened on vault and was followed by Hall. KJ Johnson stuck the landing in the third spot and was followed by an impressive vault from Tatum. Fifth-year transfer Jillian Hoffman completed her first routine as an LSU uniform and the rotation concluded with Drayton.
Shchennikova opened on vault and McClain, Kiya Johnson, Brock and Bryant following for the first round, while the second group competed on bars.
Jeffrey opened the rotation on bars and Tatum followed with a solid routine. Dunne turned in an impressive showing followed by Cohen and Drayton.
The first group moved to bars for its final rotation with the second group on beam.
Johnson opened the routine followed by Shchennikova, McClain, Schoenherr and Bryant. Jeffrey opened on the beam with Cohen, Dunne, KJ Johnson and Aleah Finnegan.
“Some people that stuck out tonight were Chase’s vault and floor and obviously Haleigh and Kiya did their thing,” Clark said. “I thought Ashley Cowan did pretty well on three events and she’s a good competitor. Savannah did a great job for us tonight. She’s a great addition to this team. There were so many out there to name.”