FORT WORTH, Texas — To LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux, Saturday night’s Metroplex Challenge wasn’t as much about competing against No. 1 Oklahoma as about measuring the mettle of her No. 2 Tigers.
In that regard, she considered the evening a roaring success, even if they did come up a little short on their way to finishing second in the meet that also featured No. 8 Arkansas and Iowa State.
LSU’s season-high score of 197.425 still couldn’t catch the Sooners, who claimed their second consecutive Metroplex Challenge title with a 197.700. But the Tigers showed something to their coach — and, more important, to themselves — in the final rotation.
Trailing Oklahoma by .275, the Tigers came up huge in the vault — their worst event in their previous three starts this season — scoring a 49.5, their best so far this season.
“That’s all we could ask for,” Breaux said. “We did a little more difficulty than we usually do, and we’ve been wanting to do that. It was an emotional opportunity for us to push the kids over the edge. … If we’re going to be the best team in the country, we’ve got to act like it.”
Four of LSU’s six competitors matched or beat their season high scores, and sophomore Sydney Ewing posted a career-best 9.90. Senior Rheagan Courville capped it off with a nearly flawless Yurchenko that earned her a 9.95 — just short of the perfect 10.0 she scored with that vault in last year’s meet at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
“Our whole team had an amazing vault lineup,” Courville said. “We just kept building and building. People were throwing huge vaults. Ashleigh Gnat did a double full. You never see that in college. Sydney Ewing did a 11/2. We’re excited to bring that to the postseason.
“We knew what we needed to do. We needed to come out strong and make up for some things. We made some mistakes on the floor — walked around some landings, but to make up for it on vault when we really needed it says a lot about who we are and how we’ve been training.”
Saturday’s performance also offered a glimpse of LSU’s future, as freshman Myia Hambrick had by far the best performance of her young collegiate career. She scored career bests with 9.80s on the balance beam and the floor exercise and added a spectacular 9.925 on the uneven bars, though she was performing that event as an exhibition and it didn’t count toward the team score.
Breaux said Hambrick will likely become a big factor for the Tigers as the postseason approaches.
“She’s been a little inconsistent,” Breaux said. “But we make the kids compete the day before a meet. She has competed and beat some people out, and it’s really beginning to build a very competitive mindset for her.
“She’s beginning to understand the process.”
Hambrick, who fell during her floor routine in the season opener and injured her ankle, called the meet a “turning point” for her.
“I proved myself in each event,” she said, “and even though it wasn’t my very best on every event, I was hanging in there with everybody else. I think it’s a process.
“I think I will peak later on in the season, so it’s definitely a process.”
That process continues for the team, as well, and competing at the Convention Center, site of the NCAA Championship in April, was a big part of it.
“Being in this arena was amazing practice for nationals,” Courville said. “We really took advantage of it, I think, and we’re going to keep this with us into the postseason, because we know how important it is.”