LSU gymnast Sarah Finnegan called the meet.
With LSU trailing going into the final rotation of the SEC championship meet, Finnegan needed a 9.925 to tie as the second to last in LSU’s floor lineup. She got a 10 — the sixth 10 of her LSU career — to push the Tigers to their third straight championship with a score of 197.900.
Finnegan won the SEC individual floor title with that 10 as well as the all-around at 39.800. She also tied for the beam title with a 9.95 at the Smoothie King Center on Saturday.
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“I don’t know if I’m more happy for her than she is herself,” LSU senior Lexie Priessman said. “I just want her to sit back today and look at the accomplishments she’s made. I’m proud of her and the way she’s leading this team. That was her time to shine on floor.”
It was a two-team race between No. 4 LSU and No. 3 Florida as the two teams battled it out through all four events.
While LSU was solid throughout the meet, it seemed like Florida could do no wrong for most of it. The Gators scored 49.425 or higher on every event and led going into every rotation.
LSU seemed to have a “slow and steady wins the race” mentality, as it remained consistent. Finnegan said the Tigers didn't want to focus on the scores.
“What you can control is on your event, doing your gymnastics,” Finnegan said. “That’s what we did. We didn’t let if we were first or second or third get into our minds because it doesn’t matter until the very last person finishes.”
LSU started the meet strong on vault with three straight 9.90s from Finnegan, McKenna Kelley and Ruby Harrold.
Despite a strong showing, the Tigers trailed Florida 49.375-49.425 going into the second rotation.
The Tigers were better on bars, with an event total of 49.475.
Freshman Sami Durante started the event for the Tigers with a 9.85. LSU’s final three gymnasts — Kennedi Edney, Priessman and Finnegan — one-upped the other each time, going 9.90, 9.925 and 9.95 to end the rotation.
On the opposite end of the floor, the Gators continued to dominate. All five counted scores for Florida on beam were 9.875 or higher, led by Alyssa Baumann with a 9.95.
Florida led LSU 98.850-99.050 after two events, but then the tide began to turn on the third rotation, when LSU put up a 49.450 on beam and the Gators struggled on floor.
Kelley said they just felt the momentum swing in their direction after that.
Freshman Christina Desidero started the third rotation with a 9.90 on beam for the Tigers and Finnegan ended it with a 9.95.
Despite one Florida gymnast falling and another stepping out of bounds, the Gators held a 148.475-148.300 lead going into the final event. Even though Florida had the lead, LSU had all the momentum.
“We kept talking to the kids (throughout the meet) about momentum and wanting for them to have fun,” LSU coach D-D Breaux said. “We wanted them to get caught up in the crowd and let the crowd enjoy their exuberance. I think they did.”
LSU’s last four performers on floor needed to average a 9.90 to secure the title and it did more than enough. Priessman hit a 9.90 in the third spot and Edney followed up with a 9.925 before Finnegan’s perfect 10.
Though LSU tries not to look at the score board during the meet, both Finnegan and Priessman peaked and saw that Finnega had clinched the meet with a 197.850 before Kelley’s performance as the anchor.
Adding a little bit of lagniappe, Kelley put up a 9.90 on floor to end the meet for LSU.
“Ending on a note like that, you couldn’t ask for anything better,” Finnegan said.