FORT WORTH, Texas — Once again, an LSU gymnastics team found out Friday night how quickly things can change at the NCAA championships.
Two slipups on an event can be overcome, but three miscues on the balance beam in a matter of 10 minutes can end championship dreams and aspirations that were built through months of hard work and preparation.
On Friday night, just like in 2005, LSU’s hopes for a Super Six finals berth and a shot at its first team championship evaporated on the beam — a four-inch strip of wood — after starting with solid rotations on vault and bars.
A fall and wobbles by two other competitors on beam also did in LSU in 2005 when the top-seeded Tigers were on the verge of their first Super Six berth.
This time, two wobbles and a near-fall by Lloimincia Hall at the top of the lineup were followed with falls by Erin Macadaeg and Ashleigh Gnat ended LSU’s hopes of a school-record third consecutive Super Six berth.
How it went downhill in a hurry brought to mind one of LSU coach D-D Breaux’s favorite quotes.
“When you start digging a hole,” senior Jessie Jordan said, “stop digging.”
Unfortunately, LSU couldn’t stop digging and couldn’t extricate itself from the hole even though Rheagan Courville and Jordan did their part with scores of 9.850 and 9.90 at the bottom of the lineup.
But it was too late to avoid a score of 48.275, and not even a 49.475 on floor exercise could keep them from finishing fifth — two spots out of a Super Six berth — with a season-low total of 196.550.
“I’m not exactly sure what happened, but we definitely had a mental slip somewhere,” Jordan said. “Between (pre-meet) warm-ups and the competition, we lost it.
“It’s a huge disappointment, and it hurts like hell,” she said. “There’s really nothing wrong with our gymnastics … It’s all mindset.”
Afterward, Breaux questioned her decision to put Hall, the nation’s floor exercise leader, at the top of the beam lineup instead of Sydney Ewing, an All-American on the apparatus as a freshman last season.
Breaux said she stuck with Hall even though Hall had a bad warm-up, which led to a 9.30 score — applying pressure to the rest of the lineup.
“It was awful … awful,” Breaux said. “That was a bad choice.”
“I can’t tell you exactly what happened. We had momentum; we were prepared,” said Hall, who later stepped out of bounds on her floor exercise routine and scored a 9.80. “I can’t really put it into words, because we were the most prepared we have ever been.”
Breaux said it was impossible to stop at that point, although her team did its best in finishing up on floor exercise after its fate had been decided.
“It fell apart, and there’s nothing you can do,” Breaux said. “We went to the locker room and regrouped, and they came out and did a beautiful job on the floor — with the exception of Lloimincia not doing what we told her to do.
“She lays back on her last pass and flops out of bounds. All you have to do is lift out of the floor. It was hers to have.”
LSU did have some shining moments.
Freshman Myia Hambrick was one of six Tigers to earn first-team All-America status when she tied for the vault title with a 9.950.
Other first-team picks were Jordan (all-around, beam), Courville (all-around, bars), Gnat (floor exercise), Shae Zamardi (bars) and Randii Wyrick (bars). All will compete in individual event finals Sunday.
Still, that only slightly eased the pain Breaux was feeling from the beam.
“Preparation was perfect; everything we did up to (Friday night) was perfect,” she said. “You can’t coach this. You can’t practice this.
“This is the total antithesis of what we do. We’ve never had a beam practice that matches how bad this was.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.