The LSU gymnastics team wasted little time getting to where the Tigers want to be at the end of the season: No. 1.
LSU, which came in second to NCAA defending champion Oklahoma in the RoadToNationals.com coaches preseason rankings, posted a 197.825 — the highest season-opening score in program history — in a win against Georgia (193.600) on Friday.
With that impressive score, coach D-D Breaux's Tigers moved into the top spot in the new rankings released Monday.
LSU's previous best score in a season opener was a 197.200 against Centenary in 2014.
“Being ranked No. 1 is cool and it’s a great feeling, but we work hard to not put our identity into that because we’ve only competed in one competition,” senior Ashleigh Gnat said. "As the season goes on, the rankings are going to change; they change every week. So I think we need to just focus on our identity as a team and what we’re going to do moving on forward.”
In addition to being a school-best for LSU in its initial meet, the 197.825 was also the highest score this early in the season by any school in at least 20 years, according to LSU.
This is the eighth time LSU has been atop the national rankings, with the most recent time coming a year ago.
“It was very reflective of how we’ve been training," junior Myia Hambrick said. "I think as long we keep training the way that we’ve been training, it won’t be something that we’re all thinking about all week long — that we’re No. 1. It’s not like that, and this team is not like that at all. I’m very fortunate to be on a team that is very confident in what we can do and where we can go, and I think we can go farther."
The Tigers moved to the top of the rankings last January after beating preseason No. 1 Oklahoma in the season opener in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, but OU went on to win the national title. LSU's runner-up finish at nationals was the best in program history.
The Tigers first reached the top spot in 2005 on three occasions and were No. 1 for three consecutive weeks during the 2014 season. National rankings are based on a team’s overall season average for the first few weeks of the season before switching to the regional qualifying score.
LSU will take its No. 1 ranking on the road to face No. 4 Alabama at 7:30 p.m. Friday (SEC Network).
“Sometimes it becomes a distraction if we talk about it too much and let it become a cross that they’ve got to march up the hill and drag that cross with them,” Breaux said of the No. 1 ranking. “If you use it as a motivating tool and enjoy it — because it’s going to fluctuate. It’s going to ebb and flow. We’re going to go on the road, and then we’re going to come back home.
"Those things are going to happen, and our performances, hopefully, will continue to get a little bit better — a little bit sharper edge on some of those things. Vaults that we stuck Friday night may not stick this Friday night, so it’s going to move around a little bit."
The LSU gymnastics team took time to revisit a historic 2016 season during a ceremony prior …
LSU leads the vault and beam rankings with scores of 49.525 and 49.450 and is second on bars and floor exercise. Oklahoma, which tops the bars and floor exercise rankings, opened its season with a score of 197.750 to Alabama's 196.700.
Individually, Hambrick ranks second in the all-around after earning a 39.575 score Friday, while Gnat is fifth at 39.525. Three Tigers rank in the top five on vault, with freshman Kennedi Edney tied for first nationally with a 9.95. Gnat and Hambrick are tied for fourth (9.925).
Sophomore Sarah Finnegan is tied for first on beam after winning with a 9.950 Friday and is fourth on bars (9.90). Sydney Ewing is tied for fifth on beam (9.90).
Gnat shares the floor lead with Oklahoma's Maggie Nichols at 9.95. Sophomore McKenna Kelley is tied for third (9.925), and Hambrick is tied for sixth (9.90).
"We put our identity into the work we put in here, the work that reflects in the PMAC or other venues," Gnat said. "And I think that that’s the important part: remembering that it’s just the first meet. We have a lot more to accomplish as the season continues and just not getting caught up in what everybody else is getting caught up in.”
James Bewers contributed to this report.
RoadToNationals.com Top 25
Team, season average
1. LSU, 197.825
2. Oklahoma, 197.750
3. Florida, 197.100
4. Alabama, 196.700
5. Utah, 196.625
6. Missouri, 196.225
7. Denver, 195.875
8. UCLA, 195.700
9. Oregon State, 195.575
10. George Washington, 195.550
11. Michigan, 195.525
12. Arkansas, 195.350
13. Auburn, 195.275
14. Kentucky, 195.075
15. N.C. State, 194.925
16. Northern Illinois, 194.825
17. Minnesota, 194.725
18. Penn State, 194.625
19. West Virginia, 194.400
20. Ohio State, 194.375
21. BYU, 194.225
T22. Illinois, 194.200
T22. Iowa, 194.200
24. Michigan State, 194.175
25. Arizona, 194.025
LSU athletes in individual rankings
Myia Hambrick: 2nd AA, 4th VT, 6th FX, 13th BB, 15th UB
Ashleigh Gnat: 1st FX, 4th VT, 5th AA, 13th BB
Kennedi Edney: 1st VT, 15th UB
Sarah Finnegan: 1st BB, 4th UB, 21st VT
McKenna Kelley: 3rd FX
Sydney Ewing: 5th BB