Potential Lineups: LSU

By Caroline Medley


Today we take a look at the runners-up from nationals in 2016, the LSU Tigers! The Tigers lost three gymnasts who all contributed to lineups throughout last season: Jessica Savona, Michelle Gauthier and Randii Wyrick. While most of their powerhouse gymnasts will stick around for another year, Savona and Wyrick were flexible competitors who contributed to the vault, bars and floor lineups despite both having nagging injuries throughout their careers. Walk-on Gauthier, on the other hand, fought day in and day out in intrasquad competitions to make a meet lineup, and in 2016 she finally made more than one, contributing on beam in five meets in regular season. These girls will leave several holes in both scores and personality. However, the Tigers will bring a stellar freshman class, including a newly minted Olympian.

Both Savona and Wyrick contributed to the vault lineup almost interchangeably last season — Savona replaced Wyrick in the lineup in late February. However, vault stalwarts Ashleigh Gnat and Sydney Ewing will continue to contribute 10.0 vaults in a Yurchenko double and 1.5, respectively. The Tigers will also return Yurchenko fulls from Julianna Cannamela, Sarah Finnegan, Myia Hambrick and Erin Macadaeg. 

​Lexie Priessman and McKenna Kelley also have fulls in their back pockets, though both have dealt with injuries that prevented them from making lineups last year. However, freshmen Kennedi Edney and Ruby Harrold could both contribute 10.0 vaults, putting LSU in position to be the number one vault team in the country for a second year in a row. Edney competes a Yurchenko 1.5 that has previously scored a perfect 10 in J.O. competition. Harrold, who is about to represent Great Britain in Rio, competes a double-twisting Yurchenko. Her form is not nearly as clean as someone like Gnat, so she likely won’t compete the double in NCAA but could have a killer 1.5 if she can nail the blind landing.
On bars, both Savona and Wyrick were key parts of the lineup, and LSU was not necessarily a strong bars team to begin with. However, with the freshmen they’re gaining, that could quickly change. Strong bar workers Finnegan, Hambrick and Shae Zamardi will return, as well as Priessman, who was up to full strength on bars by the end of last season. The Tigers could add Gnat to that picture if they put her in the all 

around, but as far as highest team total, they’ll want to fill that last spot or two with their freshmen. Edney competes a difficult Hindorff release and great double layout dismount, but the real star will be Harrold. As one of Great Britain’s best bar workers, her unique skills should be a crowd-pleaser in the NCAA. Though she may not compete some of her many transitions due to both length of routine and form issues, her Zuchold would be a crowd favorite after the multitudes of bails and pak saltos currently competed in NCAA.

On beam, only Gauthier leaves a gap in the lineup, and LSU is certainly a deep beam team. Returners Gnat, Ewing, Finnegan, Hambrick, Macadaeg and Cannamela could field a lineup on their own, but coach D-D Breaux will definitely want to look at her incoming freshmen. Harrold is also a strong beam worker, with difficult dance elements like an illusion turn and a switch ring leap in her wheelhouse. Ashlyn Kirby could also contribute with her solid execution and unique combinations like a switch leap to gainer layout-stepout but is coming back from a severe elbow injury suffered during her final level 10 season.

​On floor, all three seniors contributed on and off to the lineup, though Gauthier served only as alternate last season. However, with the addition of Edney to the team, the Tigers could potentially field a lineup with five E passes in the coming season. Gnat, Hambrick and Kelley all perform double layouts, and Zamardi and Edney can both stick their double arabians cold.  After

that, Breaux can take her pick from Ewing, Finnegan, Macadaeg or Harrold to fill the last spot in the lineup. Clearly, LSU will be a formidable team this year.

As far as the all-around goes, Hambrick is a shoo-in after her success last season. It’s also likely Gnat will get the opportunity to compete all four events at least a couple of times, as she will be a senior this year. It’s also possible that Finnegan may get the opportunity, as she did on occasion last season, or that Harrold could sneak in there as well. For Gnat, her questionable event will be bars — she’s got a serviceable routine, but she’ll likely be the dropped score every time she competes with all the strong bar routines the Tigers will now have. For Finnegan, the question mark will be vault. Will her Yurchenko full be worthy of a lineup spot, or will she be edged out by somebody stronger? For Harrold, it’ll come down to beam and floor – with all the talent that LSU already has on those events, she’ll have to make a strong case to be put in the lineup.

Come back tomorrow for the final installment in our SEC lineup previews (and the third team with Tiger mascots) — Missouri! For more on lineups, see our potential lineups page here, or check out all the articles in our series thus far:

Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | Florida | Georgia | Kentucky

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