After a short 2020 season and a nonconventional 2021 season, the LSU gymnastics team opened the Pete Maravich Assembly Center at full capacity for its annual Gymnastics 101 exhibition Friday.
Jay Clark is entering his second season as coach with a lot of potential firepower at his disposal. After returning five of six seniors who competed last season — along with the addition of Aleah Finnegan, sister of LSU national champion Sarah Finnegan — the exhibition meet showed signs of anticipation for the upcoming season.
“Part of this is for you and part of this is for us,” Clark said to crowd.
Fueled by an early exit in the semifinals of last season’s national championship, two of the five fifth-year seniors — Sami Durante and Sarah Edwards — showed a glimpse of what is expected in the coming season. The remaining three, Reagan Campbell, Bridget Dean and Christina Desiderio, did not perform due to illnesses not related to COVID, Clark said.
“As of Monday, the thought occurred to me to cancel it,” he said. “But the kids rose to the occasion and we were still able to go eight or nine deep without some familiar faces.”
After winning an individual national championship in vault, Haleigh Bryant was greeted with the first of many cheers after her first routine.
“We're not announcing scores, but that’s a pretty awesome vault,” Clark said after her first one.
The PMAC welcomed back other familiar faces and a new freshman class with Tori Tatum, KJ Johnson and Finnegan. Kai Rivers, a veteran who was absent all of last season due to an Achilles injury, made her presence known after her first vault, and followed it with routines in bars and balance beam.
Gymnastics 101 showed fans not only the routines set to be performed when the season starts but also breakdowns of some routines by the the gymnasts.
Clark has nearly a month to prepare his team before its opening meet against West Virginia on Jan. 7 in the PMAC.
“It’s exciting to get the fans back in here, and it gives us an advantage,” Clark said. “We want 12,000 people in here every time we open the doors.”