An impressive recruiting class for LSU gymnastics just got even better.
After signing three national-caliber gymnasts in November, the Tigers added a fourth signee Wednesday with Alyona Shchennikova of Evergreen, Colorado.
Shchennikova’s junior gymnastics career ended in June with an Achilles’ tendon tear during training camp with the U.S. national team, a similar injury to the one that cost former LSU All-American McKenna Kelley the 2018 season. LSU co-head coach Jay Clark said he is optimistic that Shchennikova will be able to recover quickly when she arrives for fall classes and can rehab at LSU.
“Over time she was as good a kid as there was out there when she was hurt,” Clark said. “We can rehab her in a much better situation. In a private (gymnastics) club situation you’re in therapy two or three times a week and the rest of the time is up to you. We can accelerate the process.”
Clark called Shchennikova a “top-five” recruit for this year’s class.
“She competed on the senior international elite level, was a U.S. national team member, a legitimate threat for the Olympic trials, those kinds of things,” Clark said.
A former commitment to Michigan, which reached the NCAA Championship semifinals this year, Shchennikova is expected to recover enough by early next year to compete on uneven bars and balance beam, but Clark didn’t rule out the possibility of her competing on floor or vault at some point.
“Her calling card is on bars and beam,” he said. “But at the end of the day she may remind people of (former two-time NCAA champion) Sarah Finnegan on floor and vault, too. Her execution is superb.”
Schennikova’s signature gives LSU 15 gymnasts for the 2020 season and fills the four scholarship spots vacated by Finnegan, Kelley and fellow seniors Lexie Priessman and Julianna Cannamela.
She joins two other freshmen who are expected to compete immediately, Kiya Johnson of Dallas and Kai Rivers of Detroit, along with Catlin Smith of Valley Village, California.
The Tigers will likely also add several walk-ons for the 2020 season.
LSU will hold its annual Gymnastics 101 exhibition meet on Dec. 10. The regular season begins Jan. 3 against Arizona in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.