FORT WORTH, Texas — Still feeling the disappointment from two nights earlier, LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux was finally able to smile Sunday.
While the pain and anguish from missing out on Super Six finals at the NCAA championships was still there, and will be for quite some time, Breaux sent six athletes to the individual event finals.
While saying a final goodbye to two of the most decorated gymnasts in program history in Rheagan Courville and Jessie Jordan was hard, Breaux knew the other four athletes that qualified for event finals — Ashleigh Gnat, Myia Hambrick, Shae Zamardi and Randii Wyrick — will be back.
Thus, the individual finals served as a passing of the torch.
Even though Courville, Jordan and fellow All-American Lloimincia Hall will be gone, Breaux believes she has the nucleus of another solid team returning to go with five highly regarded freshmen.
“The future is so good,” said Breaux, whose team missed out on a third consecutive Super Six berth after three beam miscues Friday night. “It’s been a tremendous three years with these athletes and the enthusiastic and exceptional coaching staff we have here.
“We’re going to have a youthful team next year,” she added. “I’m excited to close one chapter and open another.”
That was evident Sunday when Gnat, who finished 12th on vault as a freshman last year, tied for fifth on floor exercise with a 9.9125, while Courville tied for fifth on bars with a 9.90.
Another of those underclassmen scheduled to return next season, freshmen Myia Hambrick, finished eighth on vault Sunday with a score of 9.8167.
Gnat, who had a fall on beam Friday night but rebounded to qualify for the floor final, said the Tigers that made it to Sunday’s finals were determined to finish the season strong.
“All of us just wanted to make sure LSU had great representation today,” Gnat said. “We said, ‘It didn’t work out the other night, so let’s just go out and represent our school.’”
“It was great to have six athletes representing LSU in finals,” Courville said after wrapping up a career that included 23 All-America honors. “There was a lot of pride in what we did today.
“We were all disappointed about how it ended Friday, but we knew we couldn’t change it. We decided we were going to be 100 percent confident in doing what we were going to do.”
Jordan, an 11-time All-American, competed in individual finals for the first time in her career and tied for eighth on beam with a 9.825.
“I thought we did great considering that we had some hardships Friday night,” Jordan said. “That was a tough pill to swallow, but we still came out and did our best.”
Sophomore Shae Zamardi was ninth on bars with a 9.8625 and junior Randii Wyrick finished 12th on bars, receiving a score of 9.2875 after falling early in her routine.
“It was fun to watch them out there,” Breaux said. “I think having six athletes in the individual finals was representative of our season. It showed how deep a lineup we had.
“To have a freshman, two sophomores, a junior and two seniors out here, it represented the entire spectrum of our team. I was very proud, and I know the entire coaching staff was proud, of the way they competed today.”
Courville and Jordan also picked up trophies for finishing in the top eight in the all-around in Friday’s semifinals. Courville tied for third with a 39.550 and Jordan was fifth with a 39.525.
While they’ll be gone next season, 10 letterwinners return. That group includes six All-Americans: Gnat, Hambrick, Wyrick, Zamardi, Sydney Ewing and Jessica Savona.
Leading the LSU recruiting class coming in this fall are Lexie Priessman, Sarah Finnegan and McKenna Kelley.
“We’ll get right back at it,” Breaux said. “We’re always thinking about what’s next and what we have to do as a staff. But I think we’re going to have some good depth next season.”
Apparently, so are the recruits.
Breaux, who said she’ll most remember the positive steps the program made the last couple of years and record home crowds this season, received several texts from the incoming freshman after the Tigers failed to make the Super Six.
“They were saying, ‘Let’s not let Friday night define who we are … our legacy will live on,’ ” Breaux said with a smile. “That’s a pretty stellar group of kids we’ve got coming, so I’m really excited for the future.”