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LSU co-head coach D-D Breaux looks on as her gymnasts warm up before the Tigers' meet against Auburn, Friday, January 17, 2020, at LSU's Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge.

LSU’s incoming freshmen for the 2021 gymnastics season are getting high marks.

CollegeGymNews.com, rating the top 10 most anticipated freshmen, has LSU’s Haleigh Bryant as the No. 1 incoming floor and vault specialist, the No. 2 all-arounder behind only Andrea Li of California, and No. 7 on uneven bars.

The site also tabbed LSU freshman Olivia Dunne as the No. 9 most anticipated all-arounder.

Bryant, from Cornelius, North Carolina, won the 2017 Junior Olympic national title and the 2018 and 2020 Nastia Liukin cups (she scored a 10 on vault in 2020). The website predicted Bryant “will take Baton Rouge by storm” and figured she will help anchor LSU’s floor lineup with rising sophomore All-American Kiya Johnson.

“Haleigh is dynamic and strong and very powerful,” LSU co-head coach D-D Breaux said. “That’s one of the components we’ve been missing, especially last year. Someone who can get on the floor and jump hard and do great gymnastics with great amplitude.”

As for Dunne, the site said she “is expected to make a difference at LSU, especially on bars and beam.” A native of Hillsdale, New Jersey, Dunne has competed for the U.S. national team and on the senior international elite level.

“Olivia has a great vocabulary of skills," Breaux said. "She has the panache a Sarah Finnegan had.”

Also entering school for LSU is freshman Elena Arenas of Athens, Georgia. Arenas has not recently competed on the Junior Olympic level; she was not rated by the website but was a highly regarded recruit with U.S. national team and international experience. Her mother, Kim Arnold Arenas, is one of Georgia’s all-time great gymnasts with three NCAA individual titles and 12 All-America honors.

“She’s a solid all-arounder,” Breaux said of Arenas. “She was an elite gymnast but dropped back because she knew she wouldn’t make the Olympic team, like a lot of kids do. But she has a great background.”

LSU also has two walk-ons coming in: Sierra Ballard from Mandeville and Chase Brock from Georgia. 

LSU is replacing three seniors from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season: two-time NCAA vault champion Kennedi Edney, 2016 British Olympian Ruby Harrold and Ashlyn Kirby. The Tigers have 15 returning gymnasts on their roster — six seniors, a junior and eight sophomores.

Ticket renewals underway

Gymnastics season ticket renewals are open now through July 17. Season ticket holders can renew at LSUTix.net or by calling the LSU ticket office at (225) 578-0100 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

LSU advises that because the ticket office is operating at limited capacity during the pandemic, paper renewal notices will not be mailed out this year.

LSU has not yet released its 2021 gymnastics schedule. The 2021 SEC gymnastics championship meet will be March 20 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

Ferrer to Auburn

Bailey Ferrer has transferred to Auburn after sitting out the 2020 season at LSU for unspecified personal reasons.

A native of Orlando, Florida, Ferrer competed as a freshman in 2019, mostly on bars along with one routine on floor and two on vault. Ferrer’s career high score was a 9.90 on bars at Missouri.

LSU facility upgrade

LSU’s palatial practice facility has gotten a major upgrade.

The program announced earlier this month that it has installed a scissor lift in one of its three vault landing areas. According to a release, the new equipment will allow LSU gymnasts to train more efficiently and safely and allow them to focus more on angles and stages of the vault landing.

"This is a really important upgrade for our student-athletes," said LSU assistant coach Bob Moore, the program’s vault specialist. "We are able to train our landings better and use uphill training with the click of a button. I am excited to get back in the gym and try it out.”


Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com