After winning six consecutive NCAA regional titles, some by wide margins, the LSU gymnastics team had to scratch and claw for a seventh.
One night after surviving in the regional semifinals, No. 3 LSU had to dig deep once again Saturday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Again, the Tigers were without Lexie Priessman because of an injured biceps and fellow All-American Sarah Finnegan was still trying to rebound from the flu.
Still, LSU persevered and scored a 197.500 to win the regional title and advance to the NCAA championships April 19 and 20 in Fort Worth, Texas.
No. 6 Utah will join LSU, which claimed its 13th NCAA regional title, at nationals after placing second in the four-team regional final with a 197.250. Minnesota was third with a 196.900 and Auburn followed with a 195.725.
“Holy cow, that was a total team effort,” LSU coach D-D Breaux said in starting her post-meet news conference. “We knew tonight was going to be a pretty tight meet, because we fully expected Utah and Minnesota to be there … and Auburn, too.”
Finnegan, who was scratched from the floor exercise Friday night because LSU had safely advanced, wrapped up the regional title with a 9.950 on bars.
That score helped her tie Utah’s MaKenna Merrell-Giles for the all-around title with a 39.600, while LSU’s Kennedi Edney was third with a 39.575.
Starting on the beam, Finnegan anchored with a 9.950, then had a 9.80 on floor — a score Tigers coach D-D Breaux said resulted from “pure fatigue.”
“When you get to the last tumbling pass, it’s like sprinting two miles,” Breaux said. “She just came up short on the last tumbling pass.
"That skill leads to a double-back, and she stretched out the foot that was behind her on the takeoff.”
Undeterred, Finnegan, who said she felt her worst Thursday after not practicing Wednesday, fought through it and finished the meet strong.
She came back to produce a 9.90 on vault, then sent 7,819 fans home happy with her 9.950 bars score.
“I was just a little tired on floor,” Finnegan said. “But the team had my back. … I’m proud of how everyone approached tonight, because I wasn’t the only one feeling tired and sick.”
“I’m real happy with what she gave us, but that 9.95 she would have had turns into a 9.80 in a nanosecond,” Breaux said with a wry smile. “It’s like an interception in football, but she returned it for a touchdown.”
LSU started on beam and produced a 49.500 to get a head start on the rest of the field. From there, the Tigers never looked back in grinding out the win.
Christina Desiderio cranked out a 9.875 in the leadoff spot before Edney, Reagan Campbell and Finnegan cleaned up in the last three spots.
Edney came up with a 9.90 and Reagan Campbell notched a 9.925. Then Finnegan anchored with a 9.950.
“The story for us was Christina Desiderio with her start on beam,” Breaux said. “We’ve been practicing that, and she just crushed it. We talk about momentum all the time, and she really picked up the momentum for us.”
At the same time, Utah was scoring a 49.375 on floor, and Minnesota was putting up a 49.275 on bars.
LSU went to floor exercise and got a 9.90 from Edney in the fourth spot. After Finnegan’s 9.80, McKenna Kelley matched Edney with a 9.90, and the 49.350 gave the Tigers a score of 98.850.
But at the midway point of the meet, their lead had been reduced to just .050 after Utah scored a 49.425 on vault with scores of 9.925 by Merrell-Giles and All-American MyKayla Skinner.
Utah, however, probably lost its chance of winning the regional when Skinner, anchoring on bars, fell and scored a 9.175. That meant the Utes had to count scores of 9.750 and 9.775 at the top of their lineup.
Finnegan led off vault with a 9.90 and Edney anchored with the same score, giving LSU a 49.450 score in the apparatus.
When Utah scored a 49.100 on bars, the Tigers’ lead was back up to three-tenths of a point at 148.200 to 147.900 for the Utes.
In the last rotation, a band of weary LSU competitors closed it out with a 49.300 on bars — which was its lowest score of the night.
“There was a little conversation in the locker room," Breaux said. "They talked about being tired, but they said, ‘We’re prepared for this.’ Their bodies were really worn.”
NCAA Baton Rouge regional final results
1. LSU 197.500 (Vault — 49.350, Bars — 49.300, Beam — 49.500, Floor — 49.350)
2. Utah 197.250 (Vault — 49.425, Bars — 49.100, Beam — 49.350, Floor — 49.375)
3. Minnesota 196.900 (Vault — 49.125, Bars — 49.275, Beam — 49.375, Floor — 49.125)
4. Auburn 195.725 (Vault — 49.050, Bars — 48.400, Beam — 49.025, Floor — 49.250)
Individual (includes top six and all LSU competitors)
All-Around — T1. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, MaKenna Merrell-Giles, Utah, 39.600; 3. Kennedi Edney, LSU, 39.575; 4. Lexy Ramler, Minnesota, 39.500; 5. Kari Lee, Utah, 39.400; 6. Derrian Gobourne, Auburn, 39.200.
Vault — T1. MaKenna Merrell-Giles, MyKayla Skinner, Utah, 9.925; T3. Sarah Finnegan, Kennedi Edney, LSU, Drew Watson, Auburn, Ona Loper, Minnesota, 9.90; T8. Ruby Harrold, McKenna Kelley, Sarah Edwards, LSU, 9.85; T17. Julianna Cannamela, LSU, 9.80.
Bars — 1. Ivy Lu, Minnesota, 9.975; 2. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, 9.95; 3. Lexy Ramler, Minnesota, 9.925; 4. MaKenna Merrell-Giles, Utah, 9.90; T5. Kennedi Edney, LSU, Missy Reinstadtler, Utah, 9.875; T7. Sami Durante, LSU, 9.85; T9. Ruby Harrold, LSU, 9.825; T11. Bailey Ferrer, LSU, 9.80; T18. Bridget Dean, LSU, 9.725.
Beam — 1. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, 9.95; T2. Reagan Campbell, LSU, Lexy Ramler, Minnesota, 9.925; T4. Kennedi Edney, LSU, Kari Lee, Utah, Tiarre Sales, Minnesota, 9.90; T7. Christina Desiderio, LSU, 9.875; T11. Bridget Dean, LSU, 9.85; T19. Sami Durante, LSU, 9.775.
Floor — 1. McKayla Skinner, Utah, 9.95; 2. McKenna Kelley, LSU, 9.925; T3. Kennedi Edney, LSU, MaKenna Merrell-Giles, Utah, Paige Williams, Minnesota, 9.90; 6. Abby Milliet, Auburn, 9.875; T7. Ruby Harrold, Sarah Edwards, LSU, 9.85; T16. Reagan Campbell, LSU, 9.825; 19. Sarah Finnegan, LSU, 9.80.
LSU gymnast Sarah Finnegan and her coach D-D Breaux led the 2019 Tigers through a season that first required patience but finished with excellence.
Perfect scores Friday on vault and uneven bars by Kennedi Edney and Sarah Finnegan helped the LSU gymnastics team make history, marking the th…