The nation’s No. 2 college gymnastics team performed like it Friday night.
After a week off because of COVID-19 protocol, LSU roared out of the gate, led from start to finish for the second straight meet and stayed unbeaten with a 197.500-197.075 SEC victory at Auburn.
The Tigers’ final score is the second highest in college gymnastics this season. LSU (4-0, 3-0 in the SEC) had season high scores in winning the uneven parallel bars and balance beam and tied its high score winning the floor exercise.
“They’re continuing to grow, but we still haven’t put together a complete one yet,” LSU coach Jay Clark said. “We’re getting close. You can tell their confidence is growing, you can tell they know they got what it takes.”
LSU freshman Haleigh Bryant captured her third straight all-around title by scoring 39.550, but she was unexpectedly pressed by sophomore Alyona Shchennikova.
Shchennikova wasn’t scheduled to compete in the all-around. But LSU coach Jay Clark pulled Kiya Johnson off the beam in the last event because she had tweaked an ankle.
With Johnson cheering on Shchennikova, she scored 9.875 on the beam just behind Bryant’s 9.900. It was another big step for Shchennikova, who last season as a freshman was limited to competing in the uneven parallel bars after rupturing an Achilles tendon in June 2019.
“They always say
next person up'," Shchennikova said. "So after floor, Jay told me, You have to be mentally checked in, you never know what's going to happen. And I looked to Kiya and she said, You got this.' I was like `I got this, thank you very much.’
“After that moment, I was calm. I knew I could do it for Kiya. Before my dismount, I looked directly at her and made eye contact. I literally wanted to say `I love you’ while I was on the beam.'”
Starting with Johnson’s 9.9 and ending with senior Sami Durante’s event-winning 9.950, LSU posted 49.475 in the uneven parallel bars. It was the second best score in the event nationally this season and gave the Tigers an early lead over Auburn, which opened with 49.150 in the vault.
LSU maintained the lead in the second rotation when AU scored 49.450 in the uneven bars to LSU’s 49.200 in the vault. Three Tigers – Bryant, Elena Arenas, Shchennikova – and Auburn’s Derrian Gobourne scored 9.900 to tie for first place.
LSU, ranked No. 1 nationally in the floor exercise, scored 49.400 and stretched its lead to .200 after Auburn’s 49.275 in the balance beam.
Bryant and Shchennikova led the way for LSU in the floor ex with 9.925 before Clark had to make his impromptu beam sub.
“I’m really proud of Alyona Shchennikova and the growth she has shown from meet one,” Clark said. “From last year doing one event until now being thrown in at the last minute for Kiya and hitting that beam set the way she did.
“I’m proud of her getting in four events and being the presence that she’s becoming for us.”
Team scores by event
Vault: LSU 49.200, Auburn 49.125
Uneven parallel bars: LSU 49.475, Auburn 49.450
Balance Beam: LSU 49.425, Auburn 49.275
Floor exercise: LSU 49.450, Auburn 49.200
Individual event winners
Vault: (4-way tie ) Haleigh Bryant (LSU), Elena Arenas (LSU), Alyona Shchennikova (LSU), Derrian Gobourne (Auburn) all 9.900
Bars: Sami Durante (LSU) 9.995
Floor exercise: Derrian Gobourne (Auburn) 9.975
Beam: Gabby McLaughlin (Auburn), 9.925
All-Around: Haleigh Bryant, LSU 39.550