It was a night of great performances, an amazing milestone and a couple of stinging disappointments for the No. 8-ranked LSU gymnastics team Friday at No. 2 Florida.
The Tigers posted their best score of the season by more than a full point with a 197.775 , one of the top-five scores in the nation this season. But Florida was even better, recording the nation’s second-best score of 2020 with a 198.375 to win their Southeastern Conference showdown with the Tigers.
Florida stayed unbeaten and in first place overall in the SEC at 3-0. LSU slipped to 3-1 and 2-1.
A bigger loss for LSU than the final score was a left ankle injury to Sarah Edwards. The Tigers junior, who won vault last Friday at home against Auburn with a 9.95, had to stop midway through her floor routine. She was carried off by a trainer as a packed pro-Florida crowd in Exactech Arena applauded sympathetically.
“It could be any number of things,” LSU co-head coach D-D Breaux said of Edwards’ injury. “We’re hoping it’s just a sprain.”
On balance it was a night filled with great individual performances for the Tigers, led by a 10 on balance beam for freshman Kiya Johnson.
It was the first perfect score for an LSU freshman since Nicki Butler in 2004.
After years of being dominated by veterans like Sarah Finnegan, Lexie Priessman and McKenna Kelley, the LSU gymnastics program is in the throe…
“We knew Kiya was great” when LSU recruited her, Breaux said. “But her competitiveness week in and week out is amazing. She’s a great 1-2 punch with Kennedi (Edney).”
Johnson also tied for first with Florida’s Trinity Thomas on floor with a 9.975. Thomas, who had a 10 on uneven bars, edged out Johnson for the all-around title 39.775-39.725. Edney, one of LSU’s two seniors, was third in the all-around with a 39.675.
Both teams started strong in the first rotation with season highs: LSU with a 49.425 on bars and Florida with a 49.400 on vault. After four straight 9.85s, Edney and fellow senior Ruby Harrold finished with a 9.90 and 9.975, respectively. The latter marked Harrold’s career high on bars.
Harrold threw another career high on vault, tying for first place in that event with Edney, the two-time NCAA vault champion, at 9.95. Harrold finished the night with a 9.80 on floor.
“She had a fantastic night,” Breaux said of Harrold. “She nailed her vault and her bar routine was fabulous.”
LSU also got 9.90s from Johnson and freshman Kai Rivers as the Tigers posted another season high with a 49.575 in that event. But Florida was up to the challenge, nosing in front at the midway point 99.050-99.000 as a 10 from Thomas led the Gators to a 49.650 on bars.
Edwards, who went third in LSU’s floor rotation, was obviously in pain after completing her second pass. She tried to continue but eventually had to take a seat next to the floor mat. Because she completed part of her routine, Edwards got a 2.0.
“It wasn’t a bad landing,” Breaux said. “She showed really good skill. This hits us in the gut because she’s one of our best vaulters.”
After a lengthy delay, junior Reagan Campbell had a couple of wobbles that led to a 9.775 before Edney and Johnson finished with a 9.90 and 9.975, respectively. Johnson, who was a question mark going in on floor with an Achilles’ tendon flare up, equaled her career high on the event she set the previous week at home against Auburn, helping LSU to a 49.250.
Florida was nearly a half-point ahead going into the final routine, a big margin in college gymnastics. But LSU finished strong with a 49.525, led by Johnson’s perfect score. Edney also had a 9.925 and junior Sami Durante a 9.90.
“There were a lot of great things,” Breaux said. “The fight was the most important part. At no point did these kids fold. They continued to push and give 100 percent, and their performances reflected that. It was a great meet.”
The Tigers return home to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center next Friday to host Alabama. First vault is set for 7:15 p.m. on the SEC Network.
1. #2 Florida 196.575 (Vault — 49.400, Bars — 49.650, Beam — 48.675, Floor — 49.650)
2. #8 LSU 196.275 (Vault — 49.575, Bars — 49.425, Beam — 49.525, Floor — 49.250)
Individual (includes first place and all LSU competitors)
All-around — 1. Kiya Johnson, LSU, 39.600; 2. Kennedi Edney, LSU, 39.500; 3. Drew Watson, Auburn, 39.075; 4. Cassie Stevens, Auburn, 39.050.
Vault — T1. Ruby Harrold, Kennedi Edney, LSU, 9.95; T4. Kai Rivers, Kiya Johnson, LSU, 9.90; 8. Sarah Edwards, LSU, 9.875; 11. Maddie Rau, LSU, 9.75.
Bars — 1. Trinity Thomas, Florida, 10.0; T2. Ruby Harrold, LSU, 9.975; T4. Kennedi Edney, LSU, 9.90; T8. Kiya Johnson, Bridget Dean, Kai Rivers, Sami Durante, LSU, 9.85.
Beam — 1. Kiya Johnson, LSU, 10.0; T4. Kennedi Edney, LSU, 9.925; T6. Sami Durante, LSU, 9.90; T10. Bridget Dean, Kai Rivers, Reagan Campbell, LSU, 9.85.
Floor — T1. Kiya Johnson, LSU, Trinity Thomas, Florida, 9.975; 6. Kennedi Edney, LSU, 9.90; 8. Olivia Gunter, LSU, 9.85; 10. Ruby Harrold, LSU, 9.80; 11. Reagan Campbell, LSU, 9.725; 12. Sarah Edwards, LSU, 2.0.