LSU freshman Kiya Johnson earned Southeastern Conference gymnast of the week honors for the first time Tuesday.
It likely won’t be her last.
The first-year gymnast from Dallas has emerged as LSU's top performer and won three event titles last Friday against Auburn: all-around (39.600), floor exercise (9.975) and balance beam (9.90). Johnson’s marks on floor and in the all-around were highs for her brief collegiate career. Johnson also matched her career high on vault (9.925) and had a 9.80 on uneven bars.
Johnson is the first LSU gymnast to earn SEC honors in 2020.
Also recognized by the SEC were co-specialists of the week Makarri Doggette of Alabama and Helen Hu of Missouri, and freshman of the week Raena Worley of Kentucky.
Hip injury hampers Desiderio
Junior Christina Desiderio has been kept out of action the past two weeks with a hip strain, LSU coach D-D Breaux said.
“Every time we push her forward to let her do things we have a setback,” Breaux said. “We put the brakes on the last 2 weeks and have been extremely cautious.”
Still, Breaux did not rule out the possibility of Desiderio competing Friday when LSU travels to face Florida (6:30 p.m. CST, ESPN2).
“I’m hoping we can use her this week on beam,” Breaux said. “We’ll know more when we do intrasquad. She a critical part of that event. Once we get her back on beam, we’ll get her back on floor as soon as we can.”
After counting one of two falls in a dangerously unbalanced beam routine, LSU gave Auburn the opportunity to pull a second-straight upset.
Shchennikova may return soon
Freshman Alyona Shchennikova was held out of the Auburn meet after suffering falls on bars during LSU’s first two meets against Arizona and at Georgia.
Breaux said Shchennikova, who is recovering from an Achilles’ tendon injury last summer, has a dynamic routine and in the long run will be an asset to the team. But she kept her out of action against Auburn to guard against what Breaux referred to as “the Jarrett Lee effect.”
Lee is the former LSU quarterback who was rushed into a starting role in 2008 as a freshman but threw seven pick six interceptions.
“We don’t want to put her out there and have her fail too many times and squelch her self-confidence and enthusiasm,” Breaux said.
“Are we a better team when she’s in the intrasquad and she hits and does great? Yes. Are we a better team when she does in the PMAC and doesn’t do her best? No. Because she wears it. She carries her mistakes around with her for a while. So we’re trying to pull her through that. When she begins to hit on all cylinders she’s a beautiful gymnast.”
Breaux left the door open for Shchennikova to return to the bars lineup Friday and said she hopes to have her in the beam lineup in two weeks.
LSU slips to No. 8
LSU dropped one spot from No. 7 to No. 8 this week according to the national team averages posted by the website RoadtoNationals.com.
The Tigers are 3-0 and 2-0 in SEC competition but have yet to notch a plus-197.000 score as have seven other teams in the top 10. LSU’s average is 196.342 with a high of 196.725 two weeks ago at Georgia. Florida is No. 2 behind Oklahoma with an average of 197.100 and a high of 197.350.
Individually, Johnson is ranked No. 2 on vault (9.917 average) and No. 3 on floor (9.95). LSU senior Kennedi Edney is No. 10 among all-arounders (39.408) while Johnson is tied for 11th (39.375).