The LSU gymnastics team will try to take a western path to the program’s first NCAA championship this year.
The Tigers are the No. 3 overall national seed and the top seed in the Salt Lake City regional. LSU will open regional competition in Session 2 at 8 p.m. April 2 at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah, site of last week’s Pac-12 gymnastics championship meet. There the Tigers will take on No. 14 Kentucky, Utah State and the winner of the April 1 play-in meet there between Temple and Arizona. Session 1 at 2 p.m. April 2 features host and No. 6 national seed Utah, No. 11 Arizona State, Boise State and Southern Utah.
LSU’s Jay Clark, taking the Tigers into NCAA competition for the first time as their solo head coach, said his team got the regional assignment he expected. After LSU’s runner-up finish in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference Championship meet with a 197.775 score, the Tigers moved past Michigan to No. 3 in the final national rankings with an NQS of 197.813. That set them up perfectly on the S-curve to go the regional hosted by No. 6 Utah.
“I like going to Utah,” Clark said. “They normally have massive crowds. We’re fine with it.
“I figured it would be Utah or West Virginia (for a regional). Either one we’d have to travel. I didn’t think they’d take the No. 1 and 2 seeds and move them geographically. I felt Florida would wind up at Georgia and Oklahoma would wind up at Alabama.”
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — LSU’s bid for a fourth straight Southeastern Conference gymnastics championship came up just short Saturday night.
Florida, the No. 1 national seed despite a poor third-place finish at the SEC meet, will be the top seed in the Athens, Georgia, regional. No. 2 Oklahoma is the top seed in the Tuscaloosa regional, while No. 4 Michigan is tops in the regional in Morgantown, West Virginia.
The top two teams from each session on April 2 advance to the regional finals on April 3, in LSU’s case at 6 p.m. The top two teams from there move on to the NCAA Championships, April 16-17 in Fort Worth, Texas.
All the regionals will be streamed live on ESPN3.com. A total of 2,500 fans per session will be allowed to attend the Salt Lake City regional. Ticket information will be announced at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
This is LSU’s 38th NCAA regional appearance and 36th straight, a string interrupted only by the cancelation of last year’s NCAA competition because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Tigers have won 13 NCAA regional titles and made 30 appearances in the NCAA championship meet.
Though the Tigers finished one-tenth of a point short of winning a fourth straight SEC Championship meet behind Alabama, LSU still is coming off one of its strongest performances.
The Tigers were led by sophomore Kiya Johnson, who won the SEC floor title with a perfect 10, her third in four floor routines this season. The score pushed her to No. 1 in the national floor rankings. Meanwhile, freshmen Haleigh Bryant and Elena Arenas earned SEC co-champion honors on vault with 9.95s. Bryant is tied for third nationally on vault with an NQS of 9.956.
NCAA meets are demanding in that they require competition on back-to-back days, something the Tigers have not done this season. But Clark said his team is ready.
“If we’d had to compete a second day at SECs, to a person they said they would have had no trouble going again,” he said. “We’ve trained for this all year long. This will be the test.”
NCAA national seeds
11. Arizona State
NCAA SALT LAKE CITY REGIONAL
At Maverik Center, West Valley City, Utah
Thursday, April 1
Temple/Arizona play-in meet, 4 p.m.
Friday, April 2
Utah, Arizona State, Boise State, Southern Utah, 2 p.m.
LSU, Kentucky, Utah State, Temple/Arizona winner, 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 3
All times CDT