Last fall, when the LSU gymnastics team went back to work to begin preparing for the 2016 season, there was no time to look back.
The Tigers certainly didn’t need an unexpected fifth-place finish in their semifinal session at the NCAA championships last April to focus in on what was ahead of them this season.
Then again, there was no use in bringing it up — in the fall or even now.
When D-D Breaux’s Tigers set their sights on returning to the Super Six finals, the past remained in the past. That’s where it will stay Friday when they get another shot at earning a Super Six berth for the third time in four seasons.
Third-ranked LSU missed out last year when it had to count two falls on the beam. The Tigers finished fifth in their semifinal session at the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena, which is again the site of this year’s championships.
They know the past has nothing to do with the present going into the first of two semifinal sessions at 1 p.m. Friday. The second semifinal will be at 7 p.m., with the top three teams from each session qualifying for the Super Six at 8 p.m. Saturday.
“That performance (last year) was not indicative of what this team can do,” said Breaux, who has her team in the nationals for the 27th time in her 39-year career. “That was then and this is now. These kids are living in the moment.
“Anything can happen ... anything can unravel at any time. The wheels can come off at any time,” she added, “but this group has done a very, very good job of remaining positive.”
LSU, which claimed its fourth consecutive regional title April 2 at Athens, Georgia, will go against two-time reigning champion Florida, which is ranked second in the nation, as well as No. 6 Auburn, ninth-ranked Georgia, No. 16 Minnesota and No. 18 Stanford.
The second semifinal includes top-ranked Oklahoma, No. 4 Alabama, fifth-ranked Utah, No. 8 UCLA, No. 10 California and No. 12 Nebraska.
“This team is extremely prepared for anything,” Breaux said. “We’re excited.
“I want our gymnasts to show consistency ... step up on the podium, enjoy the experience, smile in the beginning and smile at the end (of each routine). If that’s happening, we’re being successful.”
LSU has been consistent throughout the season, starting with a win over Oklahoma in its opener in early January. After a bit of a dip later that month, the Tigers have scored at least 197 in seven of their last eight competitions.
All-American Ashleigh Gnat said that level of consistency bodes well for her team because it’s coming at the right time. LSU posted a 197.300 in winning the regional, the second-highest score of the 12 teams that qualified.
What’s just as important, Gnat said, is not thinking about 2015.
“We have a completely different team, so I don’t think any of us are really thinking about last year,” said Gnat, a junior all-arounder who’s recorded six 10s this season on vault and floor exercise. “We set a new tone and have a different mindset going to nationals.
“There’s more excitement around this meet because of the culture we created when the freshmen came in. There’s a togetherness ... we really execute that, and it’s created so much more collective energy.”
While it lost three key seniors off last year’s team, LSU responded with a balance of upperclassmen, led by Gnat and sophomore Myia Hambrick, and a trio of freshmen in Sarah Finnegan, Lexie Priessman and McKenna Kelley.
Breaux has also depended on seniors Jessica Savona and Randii Wyrick and junior Sydney Ewing, who have all earned All-America honors during their careers.
Individually, Gnat leads the nation in vault and floor ex, while Hambrick is 10th in the all-around. Finnegan is fourth on beam and 11th on bars, and Ewing ranks 10th in the nation on vault.
Now they just have to execute.
“We just feel ready,” Wyrick said. “We were ready last year the same as this year, but things happen. But that’s not our focus ... we’re just focused on right now.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.