Even before Ashleigh Gnat brought the graceful geometry of her floor routine to a halt, LSU gymnastics associate head coach Jay Clark was striding down the side of the mat, smiling and pumping an index finger in the junior’s direction.
Clark knew. And soon so did everyone else in the season-best crowd of 10,177 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. It was a perfect 10 for Gnat, putting a rousing exclamation point on an exceptional night of gymnastics between No. 6 LSU and No. 8 Auburn.
LSU totaled a school record-tying 49.700 on floor to push its final score to a season-high 197.825. Auburn, coming off its first win in 118 straight meets against archrival Alabama a week earlier, posted a season road high of 197.125.
“We had a really, really hard week,” LSU coach D-D Breaux said. “I did a lot of pushing, tried to jump start some people. It resulted in an incredible performance on floor.”
LSU improved to 8-2 overall, 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference with just two regular-season meets to go. Auburn dropped to 5-5 and 2-4.
LSU smashed its previous high score this season of 197.425 at home two weeks ago against then-No. 8 Arkansas with a consistently strong performance.
For the first time this season, the Tigers scored at least 49.300 in every event. LSU tied season highs with a 49.450 on vault and 49.375 on bars and got the 49.300 on the balance beam.
“That’s how you have to compete and perform for a championship,” Breaux said. “I’ve said it before: This team is destined for greatness. I could not be prouder.”
It was the third career 10 for Gnat, her previous two coming this season on vault.
“You never really know,” Gnat said of her perfect score. “But watching our floor lineup hit like we do in practice girl after girl, so much momentum was building up to it. It was just amazing to be part of a performance like that.”
Freshman McKenna Kelley, daughter of Olympic great Mary Lou Retton, and senior Randii Wyrick sandwiched career-high 9.925s on floor around a 9.950 by junior Jessica Savona.
It was Savona’s season debut in the event, a former SEC champion and All-American on floor who has been nursing an ankle injury and was previously limited to bar routines.
But when Breaux decided to take some pressure off freshman Sarah Finnegan by pulling her out of all-around competition, she decided to reinsert Savona. Savona got a 10 from one judge and was beaming and waving to Breaux’s family as she left the arena.
“It was wonderful,” said Savona, who also had her parents in the PMAC from Ontario. “It was a little bit of a struggle getting back, but I’ve been working on being positive and healthy. This was a great meet to do that.”
Sophomore Myia Hambrick, a two-time SEC gymnast of the week this season, was LSU’s only all-arounder. She bested Auburn’s Caitlin Atkinson 39.625-38.975 for her fourth title this season.
LSU travels next Friday to face No. 2 Florida before returning home March 4 to host No. 4 Alabama in the Tigers’ regular-season home finale.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.