The LSU gymnastics team has worked hard to end the season on a serious roll.
But how much effort should LSU expend in its final regular-season meet, 9 p.m. Friday at Arizona, with the Southeastern Conference championship meet looming next weekend in New Orleans?
That’s the fine line the No. 4-ranked Tigers are trying to balance while they perform on the balance beem, floor, vault and bars.
“We talked about it in a team meeting,” senior McKenna Kelley said. “We’re treating it as a big intersquad meet. Something to help us get our focus on before SECs.”
Late in the season, LSU coach D-D Breaux is typically as happy to change the lineup as she would be to count a fall on beam.
But this has not been a typical season for the Tigers (10-3), who have played a shell game trying to keep enough healthy gymnasts in their rotations.
“We’re still in the process of mending and getting people back in the lineup,” Breaux said, “getting backups on floor, pulling people out and putting them in.”
One move Breaux will stick with since it’s a road meet: taking oft-injured senior Lexie Priessman out of the vault lineup and just have her do bars, the event in which she scored her first career 10 two weeks ago against Georgia. In her place: perhaps freshman Bailey Ferrer, who has done vault just once this season.
Senior Julianna Cannamela is also again likely to be held out because of a leg injury. Breaux is hopeful she can return for the SEC meet, though she may remain out until LSU hosts an NCAA regional in April.
The Tigers are coming off their two best back-to-back meets of the season. They scored a then season-high 197.900 against Georgia and surpassed that with a 198.150 against Oregon State, LSU’s highest score since February 2018.
The Tigers posted a pair of 10s in both meets, the first time that has happened in program history. Priessman and fellow senior Sarah Finnegan (beam) had 10s against Georgia, while Kelley and junior Kennedi Edney had perfect scores against Oregon State.
Finnegan said now that their season has turned in the direction the Tigers wanted with five straight 197-plus scores, they have to play the mental game to keep their edge going into the postseason.
“The physical is there,” said Finnegan, who won the all-around last Friday with a career-best 39.800. “We know how to do our gymnastics. It’s just a case of doing your job.
“I think we’re in a great position now. At the beginning of the season we had a lot of lessons and we learned from them. Now we’re continuing to build our confidence, which is what you want going into the postseason.
Endowment for Gracie
Four years ago, Breaux set about to raise enough money to endow all 12 of her program’s scholarships.
“Every time we get one,” Breaux said, “it’s like hitting a 10.”
Last week, LSU coaches announced the start of the drive to endow the program’s final scholarship, a special one in the name of Gracie Zaunbrecher.
Zaunbrecher, a young fan from Eunice who became beloved by LSU’s gymnasts, died in September from an aggressive brain tumor. Gracie was just 8-years old.
Her family was honored before the Oregon State meet as LSU announced the start of the scholarship fund drive. Breaux said it takes $100,000 in donations to endow a scholarship.
Zaunbrecher’s name will be enshrined in LSU’s gymnastics practice facility.
“We’re going to have that baby’s name on that board forever,” Breaux said.
Team SEC Pct. Overall Pct. NQS Avg.
Florida 6-1 .857 7-2 .778 197.675
Auburn 5-2 .714 7-3 .700 196.670
LSU 4-3 .571 10-3 .769 197.475
Georgia 4-3 .571 9-4 .692 197.100
Alabama 4-3 .571 10-4 .714 196.820
Kentucky 3-4 .429 6-6 .500 196.255
Missouri 2-5 .286 7-10 .412 196.255
Arkansas 0-7 .000 2-12 .143 196.170
LSU 198.150, Oregon State 196.375
Florida 198.025, 196.325
Kentucky 197.525, Central Michigan 195.875
Georgia 197.350, Minnesota 197.025, Arkansas 197.000, Michigan State 195.025#
Alabama 197.100, Auburn 196.775#
Lindenwood 195.850, Missouri 195.200, Southeast Missouri State 189.800$
LSU at Arizona, 8 p.m.
Alabama at Oklahoma, 6:45 p.m.
Air Force at Auburn, 7 p.m. (SECNetwork+)
Utah at Georgia, 3 p.m. (SECNetwork+)
Lindenwood, Southeast Missouri State, Texas Woman’s at Arkansas, 5:45 p.m.
Kentucky, Boise State, Illinois State at Nebraska, 7 p.m.
Centenary, Michigan and Minnesota at Missouri, 7 p.m. (SECNetwork+)
End regular season
All times Central
#-Elevate the Stage meet, Birmingham, Alabama
$-State of Missouri Meet, Cape Girardeau, Missouri