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LSU freshman Haleigh Bryant performs her floor routine in the Tigers' season opener against Arkansas, Friday, January 8, 2021, at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Bryant scored a 9.975 in the event.

The need to push back LSU’s meet at Auburn a week to Friday is starting to look more like a blessing in disguise.

The earlier than expected break because of COVID-19 contact tracing issues at LSU gave its gymnasts a chance to heal. In addition to resting a troublesome toe, it also gave freshman Haleigh Bryant time to incorporate a missing element into an otherwise highly proficient floor routine.

“I think we were able to spread some things out last week,” LSU coach Jay Clark said. “In a typical week between competitions, we try to get three training days in. Last week got five.”

More, lighter workouts was good for sophomore Kiya Johnson’s chronic Achilles’ tendon problem. And for senior Reagan Campbell’s sore back and hip pointer.

“I think it’s helped everybody,” said Johnson, who still probably will not compete on floor until next week’s home meet against Florida. “It’s allowed us to come down on our training, nurse our bodies and get ready for the upcoming weeks. I’m feeling better.”

The only negative at this point is LSU now has to compete for five straight weeks before another break is built into the schedule the week before the SEC Championship meet in March at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

“We’ll see how we feel after going five in a row,” Clark said. “Anytime something like this happens you try to find the silver lining. Last week was good. We were able to slow things down a bit and focus on the errors we were making.”

The meet at Auburn is set for 6 p.m. Friday on the SEC Network. Clark said his team must still clear weekly COVID-19 testing scheduled for Tuesday, but that for now all systems are go.

“Knock on wood,” he said, “we’ll be ready to roll.”

Bryant to add a move

Bryant was penalized a 10th of a point in LSU’s last meet against Georgia two weeks ago because she had a missing required element in her floor routine. Though one judge would have given her a perfect 10, the penalty resulted in her getting a 9.85.

Clark expressed concern last week that Bryant could master adding the element to her routine if the Auburn meet had gone off as scheduled. But with the extra week to prepare, the freshman from Cornelius, North Carolina, believes she’s ready to perform with an added front handspring at the start of her second of three tumbling passes.

“It would have been harder to do last week,” Bryant said.

“We haven’t done it in a full routine yet. That’ll be today,” Clark said before Monday’s practice. “But she seemed to make the adjustment pretty quickly.

“She’s earned my trust. If she says she’s good, I think she’s good.”

Bryant’s routine includes double front tumbling moves on her first and third tumbling passes, moves that Clark called a “world-class skill.”

LSU stays No. 2 in rankings

Despite not competing last week, the Tigers remained No. 2 in the national rankings with a 197.008 season average. Florida, which scored a nation’s best 197.850 Friday against Missouri, leads with a 197.506 average. Utah is third at 197.000 while Auburn is 22nd at 195.283.

The Tigers are ranked No. 1 nationally on floor and fifth on the other three events. Johnson is ranked first individually on floor with a 10 and a 9.95 in her two floor performances this season, while Bryant is fourth at 9.925. Bryant is ranked fourth as an all-arounder (39.537) and is ninth on vault with a 9.883 average.

Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com