SALT LAKE CITY — Gymnastics is supposed to be a team sport, but for a few moments Saturday LSU’s season was about an individual.
All eyes were on Reagan Campbell and her balance beam routine.
As the final competitor for LSU at the Salt Lake City regional, Campbell needed a 9.8 for the Tigers to advance to the NCAA Championships on April 16-17.
Campbell picked a good time to have a near-perfect effort as she scored a 9.925 to lift the Tigers to second-place finish behind Utah, which won the region with a 197.925. LSU finished with a 197.75.
Arizona State and Kentucky both scored 197.6 and didn’t qualify for nationals.
In the other regional competitions, Michigan (198.10) and Cal (197.75) advanced out of the Morgantown regional; Florida (197.70) and Minnesota (197.425) advanced out of the Athens regional; and Oklahoma (198.175) and Alabama (197.575) advanced out of the Tuscaloosa regional.
Campbell’s routine capped a wild night for the Tigers, who came out strong on the floor with a 49.475 but still found themselves in a battle with the other teams as they all seemed to step up their game after Friday’s sessions.
The Tigers seemed particularly motivated after their mistakes in their first competition Friday, ones that forced LSU to battle out of last place to advance to the regional final.
Having experienced that kind of elimination pressure, the Tigers looked determined to go out big Saturday. Evidently the other teams did as well, as no team other than the Utes could get separation from the rest of the teams.
The Tigers looked like a different team than they did Friday when they had the mistakes on balance beam.
They opened with a 49.475 on floor. Kiya Johnson led the Tigers with a 9.95 and Sierra Ballard and Alyona Shchennikova had 9.9s.
LSU took its momentum from floor and equaled its effort on the vault with Haleigh Bryant scoring the competition’s first 10.0.
She was set up by a 9.9 from Johnson.
LSU’s big mental test came on the uneven bars where Johnson fell in the leadoff spot and scored just 9.325. The rest of the team responded to score a 49.275, led by Sami Durante’s 9.9.
Johnson fell on beam, but the rest of the lineup was outstanding as the Tigers scored 49.525. In addition to Campbell’s 9.925, Durante had a 9.95, Bridget Dean had a 9.925 and Christina Desiderio had a 9.9.
Speaking Friday night after his gymnastics team advanced to the regionall final, LSU coach Jay Clark theorized the mistakes his team made in Friday’s session might not be all that bad. After all, the Tigers still advanced and perhaps the mistakes would get the Tigers’ attention. Better to have a bigger effort on Saturday against stiffer competition.
He just didn’t predict how much they would need such an effort.
Team results: 1, Utah 197.925; 2, LSU 197.75; 3, Arizona State 197.6; 4 Kentucky 197.6