There was no confusing the LSU football team’s high-flying offense with the score turned in by LSU’s gymnastics team Friday night.
The Tigers’ performance was filled with breathtaking highs and groan-inducing lows in their season-opening 195.725-195.025 win over Arizona. The score marked the first time an LSU team failed to break 196 in a meet since a 195.825-193.625 win at N.C. State on Jan. 14, 2016.
Despite the middling score by LSU’s loft standards, co-head coach Jay Clark said he’s hardly discouraged given how many freshman routines the Tigers had to depend on (eight of 24) and the earliness of the meet.
“The sky is not falling,” Clark said Monday.
“The first meet was a little rough. There’s no getting around that. But it wasn’t a big surprise to me given the dependence on freshmen and the fact it was Jan. 3, which is earlier than we typically like to go.”
According to RoadToNationals.com, only 25 teams posted scores from the first weekend, and LSU’s score didn’t fare badly by comparison. The Tigers, who were ranked No. 2 in a preseason poll coming off their third NCAA runner-up finish in the past four years, posted the nation’s seventh-best team score.
Freshman Kiya Johnson’s winning score of 9.95 on floor exercise tied for best nationally on opening weekend with UCLA’s Kyla Ross and Lynnzee Brown of Denver. Ross’ winning score of 9.90 on vault tied for second-best nationally.
“This team is fully capable of doing everything the last five or six have done and then some,” Clark said. “We have a great deal of talent on this team, and I’m very, very confident in their ability to do what needs to be done.”
Opening night to the 2020 season Friday was one of bumpy beginnings for the LSU gymnastics team.
On to Georgia
LSU opens its seven-meet Southeastern Conference schedule Friday when it travels to Athens to take on Georgia. First event is set for 6:30 p.m. CST and will be shown on the SEC Network.
The Tigers beat the Bulldogs in Baton Rouge last season 197.900-196.325. Georgia posted a 195.100 in its opener Friday to win the four-team Critique Classic Invitational in Kissimmee, Florida, over Iowa, Oregon State and Bridgeport.
Rau to join Tigers
LSU is adding an 18th gymnast to its roster with freshman walk-on Maddie Rau, Clark said.
A former Rutgers commitment, the Houston native will compete Friday on vault provided her school paperwork is in order, Clark said.
“We knew she was coming at midyear, but we couldn’t make any announcements until everything was done,” Clark said.
Clark said Rau attended LSU’s camp last summer and sparked interest from the coaching staff.
“She’s going to be a nice addition for us,” he said.
Other lineup changes
Junior Reagan Campbell, who won balance beam Friday with a 9.925 that tied for fourth-best nationally, is questionable this week (toe), Clark said. Freshmen Aloyna Shchennikova and Kai Rivers are “very close” to joining LSU’s beam lineup, he said. Shchennikova competed on uneven bars against Arizona while Rivers was on vault.
LSU is trying to get junior Christina Desiderio in on floor exercise but she has been hampered by a hip flexor, Clark said.