LSU’s 2020 season was off to a slow start but displayed growth throughout the duration. The team ended the cut-short regular season ranked No. 6 with an NQS of 197.285. During the offseason, former Head Coach D.D. Breaux retired after 43 years and Co-Head Coach Jay Clark became the sole leader. Clark brought former on LSU national champion and Penn State assistant Ashleigh Gnat to fill his open position. The 2021 team will be without All-Americans Kennedi Edney and Ruby Harrold after they completed their eligibility in the spring. Sophomore Kai Rivers also looks to be out for at least the beginning of the season after having foot and labrum surgery in September, but we’ll hopefully learn more tonight. The team will have Senior Sarah Edwards back in action from her ankle sprain that took her out of the majority of 2020, and the Tigers brought on their second consecutive large incoming class with five athletes joining the team, including former elites Elena Arenas and Olivia Dunne. Level 10 national champion Haleigh Bryant is also expected to make her way into lineups, specifically with the stellar front handspring pike half she brings on vault. Gym 101 will give a preview of what’s to come from the Tigers for the 2021 season. 

Here we go! Notably absent from the floor today is Bob Moore (COVID-19 related) and Senior Reagan Campbell (Illness). Campbell is projected to contribute as the anchor on BB and lead-off on FX during the season. Dean and Durante are both recovering from injuries as well. Dean is working through a shoulder injury, but may appear on BB and FX here. Durante had a screw removed from her knee prior to Thanksgiving, but is scheduled to compete on UB and BB today. 

All six seniors have shown interest in taking their COVID extra-eligibility year and returning for another season, according to Head Coach Jay Clark during their livestream with season ticket holders earlier this week. 

There will be no commentators today, but former head coach D.D. Breaux will be on the floor with the mic.

LSU just announced that Olivia Dunne, freshman, will only be on bars and beam tonight.

Rotation 1: Vault

Bob Moore said LSU has 13 gymnasts who are “really vaulting,” during the Zoom season preview with season ticket holders. The team currently has four 10.0 SV ready to go with the potential of adding four more 10.0 SV before the end of the season. 

Some technical issues tonight, but we’re figuring it out.

Arenas: FTY, piked down quite hard with a hop back and chest down. Not outstanding.

Brock: FTY, straighter body than Arenas but feels a bit low off the table. Apparently she’s working a 1.5.
Shchennikova: FTY, best of the three, near-stuck FTY.
Bryant: FHS pike 1/2, very clean with a hop back. Not quite the oomph we’ve seen on this vault before, but given how high her standards are, dialing things back today isn’t necessarily the worst thing.
Edwards: 1.5, touch of form but she’s very much back. The landing is not ready but that’s expected for a 10.0 in December.

Johnson: Just a full today, looks like one she could produce in season. 

Ryan (EX): Apparently another 1.5 in the works here. Full today is low with a substantial stumble backwards. She nearly hit her head on the table coming DOWN. Something quite special there.

Apparently, in addition to his COVID, assistant coach Bob Moore recently had his boat stolen. 

I think we can conclude that the potential 8 10.0 SVs was a bit of a reach, guys! But there are three secure ones (counting Kiya Johnson’s DTY which I feel confident still exists) so things could be much worse.

Rotation 2: Uneven Bars 

Johnson: Hips a bit closed on first handstand, mild foot situation on the Maloney, good bail. Arches a handstand on the high bar, solid double layout. “She didn’t do her upgrade,” says D-D. Maybe FTDLO?

Brock: Missed her first handstand, giant 1/2 to Tkachev is one of my least favorite combinations and she just fell on it so maybe it’s hers too. Hip and foot extension not great on this one. Full out dismount, big step back.

Dunne: She’s recovering from COVID! Pretty Tkachev, lost feet on her Pak, DLO to her knees. 

Technology is not our friend today.

Durante: good handstand, straddle Jaeger, Pak Salto, nicely up to high, Full-in, stuck. Best routine so far. 9.95

Shchennikova:  Overdoes first handstand, Tkatchev, good, Pak Salto, DLO Dismount                

Doing dismounts here.

Arenas: DLO Stuck: 

Gunter: DLO, step forward 

Brock: FTDB, step forward 

Dunne: Better than prior DLO, takes a step and has soft knees.

Schennikova: DLO, takes a crossover stuck back. 

Durante: leans forward, DD calls a stick

Arenas: DLO, takes a hop forward

Bryant: Double front half, gets the landing this time. 

Well, technology is not our friend today here at CGN, but I think its safe to say the bar routines for the tigers were on the rougher side for the evening. There’s some potential there, but landings are a huge concern for the team. COVID-19 had impacted the team and athletes here. 

Rotation 3: Balance Beam 

The tigers only lost one routine from last year on the BB, so expect more consistency here. Ashleigh Gnat, assistant coach, said the team was training 16 girls on the event at some point.

Okay, so Jay Clark says the team is heading home for the holidays, but will be isolated in hotel rooms after the break until COVID-19 tests are negative to avoid spread. 

Desiderio: The lead-off performer seems to be Desiderio again this year, switch leap to switch half to beat, nicely done, bhs loso, good, slight check on full turn, front aerial to sissone, good, gainer full, stuck. 

Arenas: How to save a life by the fray is her beam music. Bhs loso, some form issues, front toss, large wobble and bends at hip, but stays on, short on leaps, nice full turn, side aerial to beat, slow connection, Roundoff 1.5, tiny hop forward. 

Durante: full turn, good, Bhs loso, large wobble almost comes off beam, front aerial to split jump, good, switch leap to straddle ¼, won’t get credit for connection, side aerial to layout full, stuck. 

Schennikova:  bhs loso, off the beam, Onodi, love this skill, leap series, nicely done, front aerial to beat jump, good, nice full turn, gainer full. Stuck but bent at the hips. She didn’t seem phased by the fall there, which is a plus. 

Dean: nice full turn, side aerial to bhs, good, that’s a new leap series for her, well done, front aerial to beat, nicely done, side aerial to layout full, stuck.

Johnson: beam anchor tonight in place of Campbell, nice full turn, Bhs loso, good, split leap to switch half, well done, front toss, squeezes her toes on the beam to save it, roundoff double twist, takes a step forward. 

Dunne: Bhs loso, nice height and floaty, front aerial, good, leap to switch half, tad short on second leap, full turn, good, gainer full, stuck. They are going to want that one in the lineup once she gets more routines under her. 

Ballard: She’s Jay Clark’s niece btw. Bhs loso, solid, switch leap to switch half, short of 180, front toss, little low on the landing but holds onto it, sheep jump, roundoff 1.5, step forward. 

Schennikova is back on the beam to repeat her Bhs loso series. She does it but has to take a step back on landing. She’ll repeat again and does this one nicely. 

Durante repeats her Bhs loso and has some wobbles and form issues. Also repeats leap series. 

Johnson does her front toss again, much better. 

Dunne just did a really nice Bhs loso. Her form in the air is excellent here.

Arenas repeats front toss to beat jump, well done. 

Team is going to rotate now to floor. 

Rotation 4: Floor Exercise 

Everyone has a new floor routine except Kai Rivers, who will not compete in the event due to injury. Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, volunteer coach and choreographer, says Rivers’ routine is a crowd pleaser and it sounds like she’ll keep her old routine for next year. Also of note, SO Lexi Nibbs is in the process of getting a floor routine that may make an appearance at some point during the season.

Okay, so we are doing just first passes here and then will see some routines later. They are going to go in competition order. 

Schennikova: front double twist, good.

Arenas: Front double twist, nicely done.  

Gunter: best landing so far of the night on her Double Arabian/

Desiderio: DLO, slightly under-rotated.

Edwards: does the front double twist here and not the dlo, nicely done. 

Bryant: Front double, great.  

Johnson: Full-in, large lunge back 

Dean: double Pike, good,

Ballard: DLO, nicely done. 

Now, onto routines

Schennikova: She did not compete here at all in her freshman year. Back 1.5. to front lay, good, ring to switch half, short on 180. Front 1.5 to Layout stepout. 

Arenas: I love this floor music actually, very different from typically LSU, stream froze on her second pass here, short on switch half to wolf jump, ends with a double pike, chest down on landing.

Gunter: front full to front lay, nicely done, straddle to wolf jump, double back, good landing here. Glad to see her healthy and competing here. 

Desiderio: Clark said she was competition ready on floor for week 1 earlier this week which hasn’t been the case the past two years. front full to front lay, she shows signs of a veteran there because it looked like her timing was off, but lands it nicely, ring leap to tour de jete half, nicely done, does the double tuck to finish.

Edwards: Sustained injury mid-routine on FX last season on Jan. 24 vs. Florida. She was scheduled to return towards end-of-season, but COVID-19 prevented that from happening. First floor routine since.  She’s really playing to the audience here and performing, straddle leaps are nicely done, I think this is part of Bridgette Caquatto’s floor music years ago, high double tuck to end, sticks it but chest is forward. Favorite choreography piece of the night. Fits her very well. 

Bryant: Okay, I really like this floor music too, front lay to 1.5 good, leap pass is good, artistry was really nice in this routine. Ends with a double twist but falls back on it. 

Johnson: 1.5 to front lay, great, sky high double pike to end. Yep, she is definitely the anchor for the tigers and will be counted on heavily this season. 

Dean: 1.5 to front lay, nicely done,  soft knees on all her leaps and short of the full split position, Double back to end, chest slightly low here. Okay, on replay her form in her front layout and double back could be improved. 

Ballard: Pretty sure this is a version of bad guy, unless its just me.. back 1.5 to front lay to stag jump, beautiful layout position there, ring to switch half, ring was nice, switch half was short of split, double pike, great. She’s definitely the underdog that performed well here tonight. Hit both BB and FX tonight with nice routines.

So, Dunne is just doing choreography here. She’s still recovering from COVID-19, which is why we won’t see tumbling. Elegant music chosen, she does have a stunning toe point and nice flexibility to show off here, ring to switch half, nicely done, ends with the tiger roar.  

D’Antonio now doing her choreography here too. Glad to see LSU letting their gymnasts show off their choreography even if they aren’t ready for the tumbling yet. 


The No. 3 ranked tigers showed a decent display here with more depth on each event than years past. Evidently, the team has been impacted by COVID-19 more than talked about. Clark says he has approximately 8-13 capable of going on each event at this time. The tigers will be counting on their large senior class for leadership, consistency and maturity throughout the season, as well as expect their underclassman to come up with some big routines. Clark is expecting SO Alyona Shchennikova to make a big impact this season and will likely ease her way into the AA. However, she did have a rough go on the UB and BB tonight. 2020 SEC Freshman of the Year, Kiya Johnson, will also be heavily relied on in the team’s quest to win its first national championship title. The surprise of the night for me would be Sierra Ballard she came in and hit BB and FX nicely while others faltered. Senior Sarah Edwards also had a nice showing on the VT and FX tonight. The tigers will open the 2021 season at home on Jan. 8 against the Arkansas Razorbacks on SEC Network. 


Special thanks here to Rebecca for assisting with the live blog with the technology difficulties! 


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Live blog by Katie Walsh

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One comment

  1. I disagree with you on your vault analysis. Alyona, Brock, Rau, Bryant, Johnson, Edwards, and Ryan all have 10.0 sv vaults. Ballard is also training a Y1.5. So having 8 10.0 sv vaults isn’t a reach. Some of the gymnasts have been limited due to Covid. If you would have watched the intrasquads, you would have seen that the team performed much better than they did tonight. I think tonight was mostly jitters.

    Also, they actually open up against Arkansas on January 8th, not 9th.

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