LSU gymnasts have become accustomed in recent years to feeding off the energy of 10,000 to 13,000 fans filling the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, adding a raucous, festive atmosphere to every meet. Highly scored LSU routines, especially on floor exercise, have often brought thunderous cheers and calls for 10.0 scores.
The 2021 season will be different because of ongoing coronavirus restrictions. LSU coach Jay Clark predicted only about 2,200 fans maximum will be allowed at the Tigers’ four home meets in the PMAC, though team spokesman Brandon Berrio said plans are still being finalized for Friday’s season opener against Arkansas.
“Assuming everything comes back the way we want from (COVID-19) testing Wednesday, we will be with our 2,200 best friends in the PMAC, creating whatever atmosphere they can,” Clark said Monday.
Creating atmosphere for themselves will be one of the tasks for LSU gymnasts, who cheer vocally from the sidelines as well during routines.
“We’re going to try to create the energy we want within ourselves because there won’t be a lot of people,” sophomore All-American Kiya Johnson said. “Competing at other places with smaller crowds will help us do that.”
The meet begins at 7:15 p.m. and will be shown on the SEC Network.
Assigning seats to season ticket holders is currently ongoing, Berrio said.
Any available seats that may remain would likely go on sale Wednesday, Berrio said, through the LSU athletic ticket office. He emphasized that those would be limited in number.
The screen on the LSU gymnastics video news conference Monday was barely big enough to contain Sarah Edwards’ smile.
None of the Tigers have competed in an official meet since their 2020 season was canceled in mid-March, but Edwards’ year ended much earlier than that. A knee injury Jan. 24 at Florida on floor exercise left the senior from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, sidelined until she took the floor last month in LSU’s Gymnastics 101 exhibition meet.
“The 101 was really fun,” Edwards said. “I think it’s a taste of what this season will be like.
“It’s awesome to be back out competing and starting again. We looked really, really good (in December).”
Edwards said she hopes to compete Friday on her two traditional events: vault and floor. She has twice posted career highs of 9.95 on vault, the last Jan. 17 against Auburn, with a career high of 9.90 on floor last Jan. 3 against Arizona.
The only LSU gymnast definitely ruled out for Friday's meet is sophomore Kai Rivers, who is expected to miss the season with an Achilles' tendon injury she suffered in November.
LSU is No. 3 in the Women’s Gymnastics Coaching Association poll released last month. The Tigers are behind No. 1 Florida, which is scheduled to be in the PMAC on Feb. 12, and No. 2 Oklahoma.
The rest of the SEC rankings include Alabama at No. 6, Georgia at No. 10, Kentucky at No. 12, Auburn at No. 14, Arkansas at No. 15 and Missouri at No. 16.