ST. CHARLES, Mo. — Sarah Finnegan was probably the only one excited about the weather forecast.
About 2-3 inches of snow fell outside of the The Family Arena as Finnegan and the rest of the LSU gymnastics team competed in the GymQuarters Mardi Gras Invitational on Friday night. The winter wonderland was a treat for the Missouri native.
“It snowed a little bit in Louisiana last year, but it was like an inch for a day,” Finnegan said. “It wasn’t like it is here.”
The cold temperatures outside had no affect on the Tigers inside as No. 5 LSU posted a score of 197.25, topping No. 4 Utah along with Missouri and Stanford in the four-team meet. Finnegan led the way winning the all-around competition with a 39.65.
It was a far cry from LSU’s subpar performance the last time out at Kentucky.
“The key to the turnaround was pride,” LSU coach D-D Breaux said. “The kids knew they let themselves down personally, but they also let their teammates down. We regrouped as a staff. We decided maybe part of the problem is us and we changed the way we do things. We did a lot of pushing but we also did a lot of positive motivation in practice this week and focusing on the things we need to get better.”
Finnegan was the spark posting team highs on the floor (9.925) and leading off the vault with a 9.95, which was significant because her routine had a start value at the same score.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all, but I hit my landing and then saw the score,” Finnegan said. “It was a cool feeling.”
Finnegan also won the SEC all-around championship in St. Louis last year. This was her final competition in her home state.
“She just does it over and over again,” Breaux said. “This is home for her, her family’s here, her sisters, and it’s very gratifying for her to come home and do such a good job.”
Reagan Campbell posted a career high 9.9 on the floor and was strong in the beam with a 9.875.
“You could feel it from the whole team,” Campbell said. “We all just let loose and did our jobs.”
LSU pushed ahead of Utah after the third rotation with its best team floor routine of the season, posting a 49.475. Ruby Harrold and McKenna Kelley each posted a 9.9 to go along with the high scores from Finnegan and Campbell.
It was a dramatic improvement from the floor after having three competitors step out of bounds against Kentucky.
“We’ve got kids who are coming back from sickness and coming back from injury,” Breaux said. “I think last week was not our time to push through and show the improvement that we have. But to come out tonight on the podium in St. Louis was just an incredible step in the right direction.”
Sophomore Sami Durante scored a 9.85 in the bars in her return after suffering a concussion in a fall during warm-ups against North Carolina State on Feb. 1.
Durante took the spot of Lexie Priessman who was ruled out of the Tigers’ lineup due to an undisclosed injury.
This was the beginning of a trying weekend for LSU, who will host Missouri on Sunday. The physically demanding weekend is by design to help the team get ready for the postseason.
“We’re going to have to continue to build on this weekend and this meet and the progress that we’ve made,” Finnegan said. “But I’m looking forward to just improving from here on out. There’s still some things that we can improve on and we’re going to go back into the gym and work on those things.”