LSU gymnastics team claims 4th straight regional title, spot at NCAA championships for 5th straight year _lowres

Photo provided by LSU Sports/Chris Parent -- LSU gymnast celebrate their victory in the NCAA Regional in Athens on Saturday, April 2, 2016.

ATHENS, Ga. — In claiming the title in the NCAA Athens regional Saturday afternoon, the LSU gymnastics team did something it has rarely done: It won in Stegeman Coliseum.

Top-seeded LSU outscored Georgia in the GymDogs’ home for only the fourth time in program history, taking the title with a score of 197.300 to advance to the NCAA championships to be held later this month in Fort Worth, Texas.

Second-seeded Georgia took the other spot for the NCAA championships with a 196.850 and will join LSU in the national semifinals April 15. The top three teams from each of the two semifinal sessions advance to the Super Six finals the following day.

In winning the regional, LSU avenged a third-place finish in the same building in 2011. That was the last time the Tigers failed to qualify for the national championships.

Still streaking

Entering the regional as one of the hottest teams in the country, third-ranked LSU proved it again Saturday when the Tigers scored at least a 197 for the sixth competition in a row and the seventh time this season.

In its six-meet streak of hitting the 197 mark, LSU has averaged a score of 197.713.

Before Saturday, the Tigers posted a 197.825 vs. Auburn, a 197.900 at Florida, a 197.925 vs. Alabama, a 197.825 at Texas Woman’s and a 197.500 at the Southeastern Conference championships.

Four in a row

The regional title was the fourth in a row for LSU since it finished second to Alabama in the 2012 Seattle regional.

Since then, the Tigers have won in Columbus, Ohio (2013); Baton Rouge (2014); Ames, Iowa (2015); and Athens (2016).

It was also the 15th regional title in program history.

Tigers’ support

After several members of the gymnastics team took in LSU’s 5-4 softball win over Georgia on Friday, the Tigers softball squad returned the favor Saturday.

After clinching the series with a 5-1 victory, coach Beth Torina and her team, which will go for a sweep at 1 p.m. Sunday, made their way to Stegeman Coliseum to catch the regional.

Ashleigh Gnat, Sydney Ewing and Sarah Finnegan were among the gymnasts who attended the softball game Friday.

Hello, Mary Lou

Former Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton, the mother of LSU freshman McKenna Kelley, was among the contingent wearing purple and gold Saturday.

Retton, who lives in Houston, also has been to meets against Oklahoma and Auburn in Baton Rouge, the two Texas meets LSU competed in and the SEC championships.

Kelley, who competes on the floor exercise, scored a 9.90 on Saturday.