Almost exactly a year ago, Sarie Morrison had the first of two surgeries on her foot to heal a nagging ankle injury, which limited her to competing only on the bars.
The setback seemed like a distant memory Friday when Morrison took home two individual titles and led the No. 8 LSU gymnastics team to a 196.075-194.975 win against No. 22 North Carolina State.
“It’s definitely been a struggle having to have two ankle injuries last season,” Morrison said. “But to overcome it and to come in here and get the chance to vault and go out and hit it and have my team support me, it was such an amazing feeling. I can’t stop smiling, I’m so excited.”
The junior scored a 9.900 on vault and a 9.825 on bars to win her 17th and 18th individual titles, joining sophomore Rheagan Courville, who took home the beam title (9.875) and floor title (9.975) to help give LSU coach D-D Breaux her 600th career win.
“Does that mean I’m really old?” joked Breaux, now in her 36th season at LSU. “It’s just extremely gratifying to be at LSU and to have a kind of — hopefully — legacy. I’m just so grateful to LSU. Tonight will be a night for everyone to remember.”
Breaux made history in more ways than one Friday, coaching LSU to the first 196 score in a season opener in program history. LSU’s top two season-opening scores came in 2008 (195.725) and 2009 (194.900) — two seasons the Tigers made it to the Super Six.
“Jay (Clark, assistant coach) has been saying that all fall, ‘Open with 196,’” Breaux said. “Create the perception, create the respect, create your team image. We’re certainly going to get better from here.”
It was also the first time LSU opened the season at home since 2010.
The Tigers started off strong, taking an early lead after the first rotation, but faltered during the second rotation, with the first two gymnasts scoring a 9.125 and an 8.600 on bars.
The Tigers bounced back with four consecutive 9.700 or better to close the bars, and win the beam and floor in the final two rotations.
“To go to bars and to have a letdown the first two people, it just kind of takes the wind out of your sails,” Breaux said. “But they kept pushing. Great teams can overcome that kind of adversity.”
Courville took home the all-around title with a 39.500, followed by fellow sophomore Lloimincia Hall, who posted a 39.250. N.C. State’s Diahanna Ham finished third with a 39.100.
“I think the first meet, you get to get out there and your team gets to show everybody what you’ve been training,” said Courville, who has also battled nagging injuries this offseason. “Especially for me, my team propelling me through practice has just really been the most successful thing for me so far.”
Friday was also the first glimpse at the new class of freshman gymnasts, including Jessica Savona and Randii Wyrick.
Savona, who was an alternate on the Canadian Olympic team, scored a 9.850 on vault, a 9.800 on beam and a 9.925 on floor, while Wyrick posted a 9.775 on bars.
“I had an amazing time,” Savona said of her first meet as a Tiger. “I had a lot more fun than I thought I would. Collegiate gymnastics is a lot more fun and energizing and you get to be part of a team. It means so much to me to be a Tiger and an LSU gymnast.”
LSU’s next meet is next Friday in the PMAC against No. 3 Florida.