The LSU gymnasts have a plan and a pattern to conquer the upcoming NCAA championships, senior Sarah Edwards said.
“Qualify, advance, qualify, advance, win,” she said.
The Tigers qualified easily for NCAA competition, being tabbed as the No. 3 national seed. They head into competition this weekend in the NCAA Salt Lake City regional as the No. 1 seed there.
The top two teams from Friday’s regional semifinals advance to Saturday’s final. The top two teams there advance to the NCAA Championships, April 16-17 in Fort Worth, Texas.
LSU competes at 8 p.m. CDT both nights in Utah. The meet will be streamed on ESPN3.com.
The Tigers talk often of being in their “purple zone” for competition. They seem locked in now, coach Jay Clark said, after a pair of intrasquad meets last week on back-to-back days designed to simulate the regional competition.
“What we did Friday and Saturday in the gym left me speechless,” Clark said. “I told them, ‘I’ve got nothing.’ Now the question remains if we can be that outside this room (LSU’s practice gym).
“If we can, there’s not anybody they can’t beat.”
The LSU gymnastics team will try to take a western path to the program’s first NCAA championship this year.
Because of COVID protocols, teams are limited in their travel party for NCAA competition, leaving Clark with a choice. He could leave three of his gymnasts at home or leave some of LSU’s support personnel.
He chose the latter.
“We’re taking them all,” Clark said. “That’s 18. I didn’t want to sacrifice having student-athletes travel,” Clark said. “We’re only taking two of our four managers.”
What remains to be worked out is which gymnasts will be on the floor for each event. The NCAA is mandating 13 people at a time, including assistant coaches, with the rest watching from the stands.
“I want to make sure our seniors, whether they’re doing one or more event, get equitable time” on the floor, he said.
A stable lineup
Barring injury or illness, Clark said LSU likely won’t be making big changes to its lineup that scored a 197.775 to finish second in the SEC Championship two weeks ago. He did, however, leave open the prospect of resting one of his all-arounders — All-Americans Kiya Johnson and Haleigh Bryant — in one event Friday to have them fresher for Saturday.
“If I need to be strategic that first day and take one of our all-arounders down to three events I feel we can do that with confidence,” Clark said.
Another possible switch could be replacing someone on balance beam with sophomore All-American Alyona Shchennikova.