The LSU gymnastics teams found out last week that it could win — and win big — without All-American Jessie Jordan.
On Friday night, the second-ranked Tigers will try to top the 198 mark for the second week in a row, with Jordan — one of the nation’s top all-around performers — back in their powerful lineup.
LSU has notched a season-high score three weeks in a row, topped by last week’s 198.075 in a victory over No. 9 Georgia despite Jordan being sidelined with a neck and back injury during pre-meet warmups. It was the second-highest score in program history.
Continuing to build the momentum, likely with Jordan back in two events, will be the goal when LSU (7-1, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) visits ninth-ranked Auburn (3-2, 1-2 SEC) for the first top-10 matchup in Auburn Arena history. The 7 p.m. meet will be televised live on the SEC Network.
In defeating Georgia, LSU posted the second-highest score in the nation this season. A week earlier, the Tigers had a 197.425 in the Metroplex Challenge, which followed a 197.350 in a home meet against Missouri.
Last week’s score without Jordan was certainly an eye-opener for associate head coach Jay Clark.
“I don’t know if I’m paying attention to scores right now. What I do know is that was our best performance — top to bottom — this season,” Clark said. “The (uneven) bars wasn’t the best because we’re a little bit thin there, but the other three events really came around. The beam, floor and vault were much better than they had been all year.”
LSU had the best score in the nation last week on beam with a 49.625 and floor exercise at 49.625. Those scores helped Rheagan Courville earn SEC Gymnast of the Week honors, while freshman Erin Macadaeg was the conference’s specialist of the week.
“It’s starting to come together, and this is the part of the season where you want it to be coming together,” Clark said. “I’m focusing on our performance, and right now, the kids are moving toward their potential.”
In addition to possibly having Jordan back in the bars and beam lineups, LSU expects to have senior Britney Ranzy competing for the first time this season on vault after missing the first five meets because of an injury.
Picking up the scoring slack last week were five gymnasts who had at least one season-high score in the win over Georgia.
Joining Courville and Macadaeg with season highs were sophomores Sydney Ewing and Ashleigh Gnat and freshman Myia Hambrick.
LSU has three gymnasts ranked in the nation’s top five — with Courville holding down two spots. She is third in the all-around and second on bars. Lloimincia Hall is second in floor exercise and Jordan is fourth in the all-around and third on the beam.
Having a full lineup will give LSU a chance to improve on last week’s score. But a high score isn’t what Clark is looking for, even though it would be nice.
“It’s nice to put up a 198 and you go, ‘Wow,’ ” he said. “But you can win a national title with a low 197 score.
“What’s important is, did we perform the way we wanted to? This week is just another step to this point, and they’ve done exactly what we wanted them to do.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter: @MicklesAdvocate.