In the toughest conference in women’s collegiate gymnastics, all the rest are in Sarah Finnegan’s wake.
The LSU junior was named Southeastern Conference gymnast of the year Thursday in a vote of the league’s coaches. Finnegan becomes the sixth Tiger to be named SEC gymnast of the year and the first since Rheagan Courville in 2013.
It has been a banner season for Finnegan, highlighted by her all-around title this past Saturday in the SEC Championship meet in St. Louis. Earlier this year, Finnegan joined two-time SEC gymnast of the year April Burkholder as the only LSU gymnasts to score 10s on three different events. Finnegan has had 10s this season on bars, beam and floor.
Finnegan has 24 individual titles in 2018, the most on the team. With 44 career titles, she needs four more to move past Angie Topham (1985-88) for 10th place on LSU's career list.
Wednesday, Finnegan was named as a four-time regular season All-American by the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women (NACGC/W). Finnegan is just one of three gymnasts nationally to finish in the top eight in four events. The first LSU gymnast to finish a season No. 1 nationally on uneven bars, Finnegan is fourth in the all-around (first in the SEC), fourth on beam and tied for seventh on floor.
Despite the fact LSU swept the SEC's regular season and championship meet titles, Finnegan's was the only one of the SEC's top four awards captured by the program. Arkansas' Mark Cook and Sarah Shaffer were named SEC coach and freshman of the year, respectively. Florida senior Alex McMurtry, the 2017 SEC gymnast of the year, was named specialist of the year.
A native of St. Louis who grew up in Lee's Summit, Missouri, near Kansas City (the same hometown of former LSU All-American pitcher Alex Lange), Finnegan came to LSU with some of the most impressive junior credentials of any Tigers gymnast. An alternate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, she trained under legendary coach Al Fong, himself a former LSU men’s gymnast, at his facility near Kansas City. Her younger sister, Aleah, who also trains with Fong, is set to attend LSU in 2021 and begin competing for the 2022 season.
Sarah Finnegan and the No. 2-ranked Tigers return to action April 7 as the top seed in the six-team NCAA Raleigh Regional at North Carolina State along with Nebraska, Oregon State, George Washington, Maryland and host N.C. State. The top two teams from the regional will advance to the NCAA Championships, April 20-21 back at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, site of the SEC Championship meet.
The regional can be seen streaming only via the WatchESPN app or WatchESPN.com.
LSU's SEC gymnasts of the year
2018 — Sarah Finnegan
2013 — Rheagan Courville
2010 — Susan Jackson
2008 — Ashleigh Clare-Kearney*
2005 — April Burkholder
2004 — April Burkholder
*-Co-gymnast of the year