At the site where it hopes to capture the program’s first national championship, the LSU gymnastics team travels to the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena for the Metroplex Challenge against three other ranked teams at 7 p.m. Saturday.
No. 2 Oklahoma — whom the No. 6 Tigers beat in their season-opener — headlines the field that also includes No. 12 Stanford, No. 16 Missouri and Washington.
“It’s a mini version of what we will feel and have at our SEC Championships and certainly the preliminary round of our national championships,” said LSU coach D-D Breaux, who has never won a title at Metroplex in three tries. “It’s a short-term target on our schedule.”
Breaux often speaks of Metroplex as that — a goal meet where she hopes her team can be as close to full strength as possible. Injuries have allowed Breaux to juggle a floor lineup that she hopes will see the addition of anchor Jessica Savona, who’s still hobbled with an ankle injury, at Metroplex.
Savona warmed up on floor before the team’s win against Kentucky last week and tumbled seemingly pain-free, but she was held out of the rotation.
Freshman Sarah Finnegan’s said she hopes to compete in all-around at the meet, though Breaux was more cautious when speaking earlier this week, saying she just hoped to place Finnegan and fellow freshman Lexi Priessman in one additional event.
Priessman made her collegiate debut on bars last week against Kentucky, winning the meet with a 9.925. Finnegan has competed only on bars and beam this season, winning beam in two of the team’s first three meets.
It’s also a return to an elite feel for Finnegan and Priessman. The Metroplex competition is on a podium surface, making the apparatuses bouncier and giving the judges a different viewpoint, much like many of the elite events those two freshmen were accustomed to competing in before college.
The SEC Championship meet and national championship meet are also competed on podium.
“It’s a great environment to be in, and we love competing at this meet, so I think we’re all really excited,” said junior all-arounder Ashleigh Gnat. “(The podium) gives you a little bit more bounce. The surface underneath the equipment is bouncier, so it’s really about focusing and controlling your body in the air so you can land perfectly. A lot of control.”
Breaux’s still searching for consistency — falls on bars, beam and floor have plagued the Tigers in their past two meets, though the 196.575-195.100 win over Kentucky featured higher scores following the mistakes, thereby dropping them from the team score.
“We’re having to count a fall in some of our events and that’s very costly, that’s five tenths from your team score,” Breaux said. “But at the same time, we’ve been able to change our lineup a little bit, use some of our depth while people are out.
“We have 15 kids on this squad, and we want to feel like we can have 10 ready on each event every weekend.”