LIVE BLOG: LSU Gymnastics 101

After finishing the 2019 season in second, LSU is back to give fans a first look at all the hard work it’s put in this fall. The Tigers will be without the likes of Sarah Finnegan, Lexie Priessman and McKenna Kelley for the first time in four years but boast a strong freshman class, which includes two-time J.O. national champion Kiya Johnson, national runner up Kai Rivers and former international elite Alyona Shchennikova.

We always get a lot of good insight into the team at this preview, so let’s get started! You can find video here.

Four! More! Years!


D’Antonio: FTY, fine but nothing special

Of note, Shchennikova isn’t dressed out.

Nibbs: FTY, a little messy in the air and a step but great height

LSU’s in its giant fleur de lis leo tonight. I love that teams bring back older leos for these preseason showcases.

Edwards: Y1.5, her usual pop with a step forward. Bob Moore loved it, probably more than was warranted.

They’re specifically not going for sticks here to preserve their bodies.

Johnson: FTY with a giant bounce. She’s been training a DTY, so it makes sense. She’s going to be a Thing, guys. This vault looked like a timer for her.

In important news, D-D is in a black and white tiger stripe top with a green Christmas tree on it.

Edney: Stuck Y1.5, which was totally legit because I just told you all they’re not supposed to be trying to stick. “You call that a bowne stick.” – D-D

Well that was less people than we normally see and not likely those you’ll regularly see in the lineup come season or postseason, but it’s good to get those freshmen acclimated, which is what this little preview is all about. Notably, no Ruby Harrold or Bailey Ferrer, who both vaulted last year, or Kai Rivers, who we expected to factor in on this event.


Johnson: great first handstand, toe-on shaposh, really nailing her handstands in this routine, she’s so clean, double layout just a smidge underrotated and chest down with a small hop forward as she tried to save the stick.

Dean: Strong first handstand, bit of a messy and close Ray, short on her bail handstand, whipy double layout to close with a hop back. Not a routine LSU ideally wants in the lineup but a routine that can fill in in a pinch.

D-D has a “600 wins” coozie. I’m bringing you the important observations, folks.

Rivers: slightly archy first handstand, toe-on shaposh to a nailed bail handstand, giant full to a big straddle Tkatchev, double layout super close to the bars and a step back. Small things that she can easily fix and will be a solid routine for the Tigers come season.

Durante: Well she’s not leading off here. Good first handstand, blind to straddle jaeger, good Pak, apparently had singer surgery over the offseason, nice full-in, slightly overrotated. Jay kept her in place but she would have taken a step back. The best routine so far, naturally.

Edney: Hindorff super close to the bar but managed not to bend her arms, impressive. Bail handstand good, giants to strong double layout with a college stick. Another good routine. Not as good as Durante (petition for Durante to anchor) but good nevertheless. “That’s her momma.” – D-D “Nobody’s safe in the audience.” – commentator that I still don’t know the name of despite him commentating LSU gymnastics for literal years

Harrold: Has a “bit of a hip injury” so she’s only doing bars today. Zucchold with a slight arch, blind with a small pause to jaeger is nice, double front with a step forward. There are things in there, but there are always some things. That hasn’t stopped her from scoring well.

So be honest, I didn’t realize how much the losses of Finnegan, Kelley and Priessman would hurt until seeing these lineups. Yes, it’s preseason and some people are nursing injuries, but to be at last year’s level, the Tigers need the expected freshmen routines to be ready and on from the very start, which is a lot to ask of newcomers. The potential is there, but I wouldn’t be surprised if LSU has a bit of a slow start to 2020 before returning to its normal self in the second half of the season. LSU will want to insert Shchennikova into that bars lineup as soon as possible.

A late entry in the best ugly sweater competition is ACK with a 3D reindeer.


Desiderio: bhs loso solid and clean, full turn no issues, switch leap to switch half to beat jump also good, front aerial to sissone a little short of 180, cat leap to gainer full with a little heel raise in place. Overall a great lead off for LSU.

Durante: Front aerial to a split jump with a bit of a pause in between, bhs loso lifts her front leg and swings it back to save it, switch leap to straddle quarter is fine if not a little labored, full turn with a balance check, side aerial to back full with a foot shuffle on the landing. Overall a good routine but a little nervy.

“We got her in kind of a roundabout way from a place I’m very familiar with.” – Jay. That’s one way to put it.

Dean: Side aerial bhs series is solid, leap series also strong, maybe a touch low in the split, front aerial to sissone, which was definitely short of 180, side aerial to back full with some chest and a step. And there’s our reminder that the beam is four inches. I had forgotten and am SO thankful he mentioned it when he did. Not sure how I would have continued on.

Wait! ACK’s sweater is a llama with reindeer antlers on! She wins!

Edney: Front aerial to wobble, bhs loso good, switch to straddle quarter, lands with her feet a little bit apart, piked fornt toss is great and high like always, roundoff to 1.5 with a hop. Some wobbles, but she hit and that’s what’s important at this point.

I’m also impressed with the lady commentators, Ballard mostly I think, explaining to listeners the new code changes, skill difficulty levels and what type of bonus they earn. More of that please!

Johnson: Full turn a little over turned for a balance check, bhs loso is floaty and nice, front tuck solid, switch leap to switch half with the half a little short but the first leap nice and 180+, front aerial—lots of those stand alone I’ve noticed and don’t exactly like—round off to double full with just a small hop in place. A nice performance for a freshman on beam.

Campbell: bhs loso is made with no wobbles but it looked like she might have landed it a tad short, full turn is good, front aerial to sissone—now that’s 180—everyone else do it like her. switch to switch half, maybe needed some more rotation in the half, ro to double full a tad short with a hop forward. But a great routine. She’s the clear anchor.

D’Antonio was listed as the alternate, but we’re getting to see her here.

D’Antonio: bhs loso is solid but then she second guesses herself the smallest bit and balance checks into dance, full turn with a check, front tuck, lifts her leg up and falls, D-D is having her repeat the skill because why not, does it again, short and takes two steps back but stays on this time, switch to switch half, second a little scrappy, bhs to 1.5 short with a step or two back. A clear alternate routine but the potential is there.

These events for LSU keep getting better and better as we progress. Beam was a little nervy, but it’s preseason. It also looks the most solid compared to 2019. I’d like to see Durante slide back in there, but otherwise I think that’s your weekly lineup.


So they’re going to do the first tumbling pass separate, outside of routines first then the routines with choreo and the second and last pass, so I’ll live blog that however I can to get the points across.

ACK sweater update: There is a llama butt on the back of her sweater as if it couldn’t get any better.

The man commentator is Lynn Rollins, or however you spell man Linn.

Edwards: double layout, a bit of a pike down and a spot on the landing but nice and floaty. That’s a new skill for her.

Gunter: double Arabian, looked pretty slow in the air so I’m not sure how she would have landed if she hadn’t been spotted.

Dean: Double pike, feet but fine.

Campbell, 2.5 nice and minimal crossing.

Desiderio: double layout, pretty archy but seemed higher than her usual, overrotated with a step.

Johnson: tucked full-in the best E pass so far, fight me.

Edney: double Arabinan, her usual, a slightly low landing and a step forward; no spot.

Edwards: Rourtine now with the last two passes, whistling music, fhs front full front full second pass, switch half popa a little wonky on the rotations, cutsy dance like her past routines, wraps up with a double tuck with way too much power and takes two steps back.

Rivers is recovering from an ankle injury, which is why we’re only seeing her on bars today, but she’s “coming along well.”

Gunter: Tore her Achilles freshman year and is a junior now trying to break into lineups. Second pass is a front full to front layout, some form, this sounds like music Lexie Priessman used one year or maybe McKenna Kelley, it’s at least in that style, finished with a double tuck which was good. You can tell she’s happy to be doing real routines.

Dean: Second pass is a 1.5 to front layout, the 1.5 was super weird and crooked? Not sure how to describe it but it was not “normal,” but not sure if it was something the judges would specifically take off for, finishes with a hugely cow boyed double tuck, don’t think she would have made that if Jay wasn’t spotting. Music was sort of, for lack of a better description, Mandolin-y/Egyptian-y?

Campbell: Second pass is a ro 1.5 into something that she didn’t connect, her leaps are to-die-for, last pass an open double tuck that she likely would have made without the spot, there were so many music changes in there and I’m not sure if they all went well together, but the dance was nice enough.

Desiderio: Front through to back tuck for her second pass, I’m assuming it’ll be a double tuck, switch ring to tour jete half is good, music is atrocious though, maybe it’ll grow on me, last pass a double pike. They mentioned they’re pushing all the girls to do double salto last passes to get that new 0.1 bonus, but it’s kind of limiting variety in my opinion. D-D also mentioning Desiderio is training vault now after she got shoulder surgery over the summer.

Johnson: Tribal (is that still OK to say?) music, she’s very much int he Edney category of choreo, nice second pass, her technique is very nice and very TD, doing some crawling on the floor, the staple of any good floor routine, ends with a double pike with plenty of power and knocks Jay to the ground and he did a side roll out of bounds and into the barricades!!! Someone GIF that stat!!!

“I’m getting old.” – Jay

Probably not a great idea to tell people to check out his Twitter, Mr. In-Arena Commentator…

Edney: Music in a similar style of her past routines, I always want to like her floor routines more than I do, this year isn’t any different, 1.5 to front layout is nice and floaty, tour jete half to split full is a little off rotation wise but finishes it in the right spot, double tuck is good and high to close. I will say I’m glad they seem to have stopped doing the tiger claw hands with the tiger roar sound in their routines.

OK! So LSU is looking pretty good for this point in the year. It’s not going to start out being as good as it was last year, so just set realistic expectations, fans, then maybe they’ll surprise. There are some injuries that will need to heal up ideally, like Harrold’s hip and Rivers’ ankle, as those two will be key contributors for the Tigers in 2020. I also have a few lineup questions, but again, it’s early and there’s still plenty of time to find the ideal top six.

We’re about to get D-D on the mic, so I’ll stick around to report on anything important that she says.

“Pretty soon we’ll be calling the LSU tigers the 2020 national champions.” #ok

The first sound we get from D-D is a sniff, so we’re off to a good start. Apparently they were using a “hard, new floor,” so that definitely played into the over-cautiousness of the routines in that last rotation. I really wish we had gotten scores from the judge who was evaluating this.

“People like Sarah Patterson and Suzanne Yoculan and D-D Breaux stuck around…” – D-D, talking about herself in the third person.

Live blog by Elizabeth Grimsley

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