LSU’s gymnasts still can’t get an individual perfect 10, but as a team they might have maxed out.
What was supposed to be a breezy bounce-back meet Sunday, two days after competing on the road near St. Louis, instead turned into a record-setting rampage for the Tigers.
LSU notched superlative after superlative, swamping NCAA Division II Texas Woman’s University 198.175-194.200 before an announced crowd of 11,005 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
It was the best score in the country this season and tied for the fourth-best score in LSU program history. Paired with the Tigers’ winning 198.075 score Friday night in the four-team Mardi Gras Invitational in St. Charles, Missouri, it is the first time LSU has ever posted back-to-back scores of 198-plus.
“Back-to-back 198s is huge,” LSU coach D-D Breaux said. “Our mantra this whole season was to create some consistency. Don’t kill your momentum once you get it going.”
Even by the subjective eye of gymnastics scoring, it was quite an achievement, especially since Breaux decided to rest a couple of key gymnasts instead of competing in their regular roles.
Sarah Finnegan, who set a career-high Friday with an all-around score of 39.775, sat out vault and floor exercise. Lexie Priessman also stayed off vault while Myia Hambrick, the NCAA’s No. 1 gymnast on floor, was a spectator during her signature event.
Even without three of its best gymnasts giving their all, the Tigers were magnificent. They set or tied 11 season or career highs, never counted a score lower than 9.875 and recorded a total of 14 scores of 9.90 or better.
This after the Tigers struggled to find their consistency through the first six weeks of the season. LSU never scored less than a 197.150 — they now own the nation’s longest-active streak with 30 consecutive 197-plus marks — but never scored higher than a 197.450. In the process, LSU slipped from No. 1 in the season’s first rankings to No. 4 entering this weekend.
The Tigers are likely to bounce back up to No. 2 on Monday.
“Our team knew we were capable of doing this,” said Priessman, who set career highs on uneven bars (9.975) and floor (9.95). “It was time for us to put it together. We did that Friday and today, in front of our crowd, we needed to continue what we were doing.”
LSU started out strong if not spectacular on vault, with Kennedi Edney leading a 49.375 score with a winning 9.90 in the event.
Then the Tigers went next door to the uneven bars and went off like fireworks.
LSU counted Priesmann’s 9.975 and three 9.95s from Hambrick, Finnegan and Ruby Harrold, along with a 9.90 from Edney for a school record 49.725 in the event. It’s the fifth-highest bars score in NCAA history, breaking an LSU record on bars (49.650) that stood since 2002.
The Tigers added a 49.475 on beam with four 9.90s, then posted a 49.600 on floor. Edney and Priessman finished off the grand performance with back-to-back 9.95s.
It was a day of redemption for sophomores Edney and Harrold, who both have had their struggles this season.
Just two weeks ago at Missouri, Edney fell off beam and settled for a 9.275. Harrold had trouble sticking landings on vault, bars and floor.
Edney’s score on floor was a career high en route to winning the all-around with a score of 39.625. Harrold had a season high on vault (9.85) and career highs on bars (9.95) and floor (9.90).
“It was great today doing the kind of gymnastics I know I can do,” said Harrold, who broke into a huge smile as she landed the second of three passes on floor. “Yes, I’ve struggled with some things, but the whole team helped me through it. To be able to give something back to them today to say ‘thank you’ is a great honor.”
Edney, who pulled off a stunner as a freshman winning the 2017 NCAA vault championship, said she put too much pressure on herself to start this season.
“I went through the first few meets with all this stress thinking I have to carry the team on my back,” Edney said. “My coaches and my teammates would tell me that didn’t need to happen. It helped me feel calm and have more fun.”
LSU goes on the road again this Friday at No. 14 Georgia (6 p.m. CST, SEC Network). The Tigers (11-1, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) can clinch at least a share of their second straight SEC regular-season title with a victory.