LIVE BLOG: No. 15 Arkansas at No. 3 LSU

Hi, hello, welcome! I simultaneously can’t believe we’ve made it to the 2021 season or that it is already starting, but here we are. With that being said, who’s ready for some Friday Night Heights? I know I am!

LSU welcomes Arkansas for the first meet of the teams’ 2021 campaigns. The Tigers hosted their annual Gym 101 preview in December despite being out of the gym the entire week prior and having gymnasts recovering from COVID-19. It wasn’t LSU’s best showing…but I guess it was something? LSU’s 2020 senior class leaves quite a hole in the lineups. Between its freshmen and returning Sarah Edwards’ floor routine and Yurchenko one and a half, LSU should be fine, but I still have questions about the coaches ranking it No. 3 in the preseason poll.

Haleigh Bryant is the story for the freshmen. She should make an immediate impact in just about any lineup, but especially watch for her vault and floor. Classmate Elena Arenas should see time as well; she competed vault, beam and floor at Gym 101. The other big name freshman, Olivia Dunne, could see time in particular on bars and beam. She did a dance through floor routine at Gym 101, but I wouldn’t expect to see it any time soon, as she is still recovering from having COVID-19. SEC Freshman of the Year Kiya Johnson is also poised to build on her breakout 2020 season. On paper, LSU is the superior team and should come away with the meet, but I wouldn’t count Arkansas out either.

The Razorbacks look to build on Jordyn Wieber’s second year as head coach. They lose two prominent performers from 2020, but an influx of transfers and freshmen look to fill the void. Additionally, Sarah Shaffer is returning for her redshirt. The Razorbacks will be happy to have her clean gymnastics around for a little bit longer. Expect to see Sophia Carter, Kennedy Hambrick, Bailey Lovett and Shaffer be the core of this team. Graduate transfer from Michigan Maggie O’Hara seems to be a staple on bars and beam based on preseason training; she’s also in the team’s projected lineups on those events, including being listed as the bars anchor. Fellow transfer Abby Johnston (Nebraska) is projected to perform on vault and floor. Arkansas is only projecting two freshmen routines this week: Gillian Rutz on bars and Jordan Olszewski on vault. Kiara Gianfagna was recently seen in a boot, though she was doing bars in a recent Instagram Story. However, she is not projected to compete any events tonight.

Injury Update: LSU sophomore Kai Rivers is out for the season with an Achilles injury. 

The stream can be found here (SECN) and live stats are here if you’d like to follow along.

Rotation 1

Arenas (LSU): fine yfull. 9.775

Carter (Ark): missed most of it dealing with technical difficulties. 9.775

Brock (LSU): another good yfull. 9.775

Lovett (Ark): ray good, bail hs, bad hs angle, blind full open double tuck close to stuck. 9.825

Edwards (LSU): 1.5, small step, some knees. 9.875

Rutz (UB): good tkatchev, nice bail hs, missed beginning; ends with blind full double back stuck. 9.825

Shchennikova (LSU): y1.5 slightly short and sits it. 9.3

Shaffer (Ark): Maloney bail hs good; dlo small hop back. 9.825

Johnson (LSU): just the full today, but it was a good one! the tiniest of hops. 9.85

Hambrick (Ark): piked jaeger to bail good; nice next hs; ftdt stuck. 9.875

Bryant (LSU): fhs pike half, clean, small shuffle back. 9.9

O’Hara (Ark): nice first hs; blind change straddled jaeger good; solid bail hs; good final hs; dlo fights for stick but hops forward. 9.9

AFTER ONE: Arkansas 49.250, LSU 49.175

Man, I wish I didn’t have technical difficulties so I could have paid attention better. LSU’s vaults were fine, but not great, apart from Johnson, Bryant, and Edwards’ one and a halfs. Arkansas on bars also looked good, enough to pull ahead of LSU after one rotation! John says Wieber said they were worried about bars. Good for Arkansas to hit a solid rotation!

Rotation 2

LSU lineups:

Hickey (Ark): yfull, clean, some pike, sizable hop back. 9.65

Johnson (LSU): ok first hs; maloney to bail hs pretty good; good next hs; dlo stuck. 9.725. Raised to 9.825 after inquiry.

Johnston (Ark): her Arkansas debut, fine yfull with low chest and substantial piking. 9.675

Brock (LSU): straddled Tkatchev good; fine bail hs; short next hs; ftdt stuck. 9.75

Olszewski (Ark): yfull, the best so far for Arkansas. clean, better dynamics, just a hop. 9.75

Dunne (LSU): so the question is, will this debut routine make it to TikTok? apparently coming back from a sprained ankle from “romping around in her apartment in her Air Force Ones”.  great first hs; straddled tkatchev gorgeous to pak good; slightly short next hs, same for final hs; dlo some form but stuck. 9.875

Shaffer (Ark): her usual yhalf, stuck. 9.9

Bryant (LSU): straddled jaeger good; bail; nice hs; double front step forward. 9.85

Elswick (Ark): yfull today, clean, good landing–tiniest of shuffles. 9.9, career high.

Shchennikova (LSU): ok first hs, ray with flexed foot; fine pak; dlo whipped around per usual and flung out, hop forward. 9.725

Hambrick (Ark): 1.5 with a step forward I think? Chris Brooks was in the way. slightly crooked on the entry and some knees. Ok, it was a step back upon replay. 9.7

Durante (LSU): good first hs; straddled jaeger pretty; pak good; good next hs; hits final hs; ftdt stuck. Great anchor routine! 9.9

Arkansas VT: 48.925, LSU UB: 49.200
AFTER TWO: LSU 98.375, Arkansas 98.175

Wow. Did not expect this one to be this close so far! Hats off to both Arkansas and LSU. LSU will want to fine tune some of those handstands and dismounts. Arkansas’ first vaults weren’t great but the rotation definitely built on itself, which is a plus.

Rotation 3

LSU beam lineup:

Arkansas floor:

Desiderio (LSU): switch leap switch half beat good; bhs loso, secure; front aerial sissone pretty; cat leap gainer full stuck. Good leadoff, just what you want on beam. 9.875

Johnston (Ark): double back, solid; whip half front full, good; something leap connected to popa, good extension; sticks double pike to close. 9.8

Arenas (LSU): bhs loso, secure; front toss beat jump good; save a life beam music, fun! side aerial tries to cover wobble by pretending it’s a side some; ro 1.5 slide. Looks like a potential 9.7 SV if fellow editor Emily M saw it correctly. 9.575

Hickey (Ark): double pike good, slide out of lunge, maybe oob? just saw a nice straddle but missed the leap series; ro 1.5 to lay solid; some fun on the floor choreo here; double tuck maybe slightly short and step forward. 9.7

Durante (LSU): bhs loso, hip check; front aerial split jump good; switch leap, something, sorry mom interrupted me and I missed the rest of the routine. 9.7

Shaffer (Ark): double pike, big lunge but clean; ro  1.5 to lay pretty; tour jete 1/2 popa good, nice splits; open double tuck but oob. 9.7

Dean (LSU): side aerial bhs good; I approve of Hannah Montana Movie beam music; good leap series; front aerial beat jump secure; side aerial lay full stuck. 9.9

Lovett (Ark): opening dlo, pretty! front lay front full solid, tour jete 1/2 split full pretty; double tuck, slightly large lunge. 9.775, seems kinda low.

Johnson (LSU): bhs loso, check and she’s off. LSU will be counting the 9.575. Switch switch half good; front toss, another bobble. not…great. stuck ro double full. 9.275

Hambrick (Ark): big double tuck, good; fhs rudi lo stag, fun! pretty leaps. clean, controlled double pike to close. 9.9

Just got word that Kiara Gianfagna tweaked her foot.

Campbell (LSU): pressure’s on for a hit set…bhs loso hip bend; Alicia says LSU’s beam is “disheveled”; front aerial sissone good; switch leap switch half good extension; ro double full small hop to side. 9.775

Carter (Ark): double tuck, secure landing; ro 1.5 front full, another good landing; switch half split full good; double pike, secure. 9.925

LSU BB: 48.825, Arkansas FX: 49.1
AFTER THREE: Arkansas 147.275, LSU 147.200

Well, LSU beam was not good. Lots of nerves and it appears the pressure got to the Tigers. Arkansas floor looked good and you can tell Wieber is really working great things for this lineup. A couple OOB issues, but the endurance is there and that’s good to see given the times we’re in.

Rotation 4

LSU floor lineup:

Arkansas BB:

Elswick (Ark): missed beginning; switch split 3/4 small check; front aerial, small foot raise; bhs lay 1.5 really fights for the stick and gets it. A leadoff hit. 9.825

Dean (LSU): double pike just barely stays in bounds; ro 1.5 to lay some knees and oob this time; fine leap series; double tuck low chest and slightly short. 9.625

Lovett (Ark): Alicia just called her candlestick mount a “back flip catch” lol. solid leaps; front aerial loso good; side aerial lay full pretty and stuck! 9.875

Edwards (LSU): fhs double full clean; fhs front full front tuck full slightly off balance landing; good but not outstanding leaps; ends with a stuck double tuck. 9.875

O’Hara (Ark): man, it’s really good to see her back; side aerial bhs good; split jump double stag good; side aerial back 1.5 step to side and off the mat. 9.7. That dismount really killed her

Desiderio (LSU): dlo, leg sep but well controlled landing; ro 1.5 to lay good; switch ring tour jete half good; good double tuck to close.

Shaffer (Ark): switch leap straddle 1/4 secure; bhs loso hip bend and she’s off. front aerial and off again. ugh, not good; cat leap side aerial lay full stuck. 8.65

Shchennikova (LSU): fhs double full largeeee step forward. 1.5 to lo not a great landing but better; leaps solid; something to rudi short; could be short of a 10.0 SV because she was supposed to connect the rudi to a loso. 9.65, seems high.

Carter (Ark): she gets a little Orel beam pep talk before she mounts. Alright, do your thing, Sophia Carter. bhs loso secure; beat jump double stag pretty and secure; front aerial small adjustment to sissone good; full turn, small adjustment; side aerial lay full good, small hop. 9.75, seems kinda low.

Bryant (LSU): fhs double front good; front lay rudi secure; switch half popa, would like more extension but they’re basically there; fhs double full to CLOSE. Better routine for LSU! 9.975, wow!

Hambrick (Ark): bhs loso secure and pretty; switch leap switch half good extension and landing; another solid leap connection; cartwheel gainer full stuck. And she did it all with ridiculous crowd noise in the background from Bryant’s 9.975 on floor. 9.925, career high!

Johnson (LSU): has never scored lower than a 9.9 on floor in her career; good tucked full in; needs a 9.825 for an LSU win. 1.5 to lay good; great extension on her leaps; double pike, small foot slide but good landing otherwise. That should do it for LSU. 10. OK, THEN. Not sure it was 10 worthy but it was better than Bryant so she was kinda set up there.

Arkansas BB:49.075, LSU FX: 49.350
FINAL: LSU 196.550, Arkansas 196.350

Wow, what a meet! Definitely wasn’t expecting it to be this close. Arkansas should be happy with an opening 196.350. I’m impressed with the Razorbacks and I’m excited to see where this team goes for the rest of the season. Vault was definitely the weak spot, but there were highlights everywhere else. LSU, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired. Vault wasn’t great, bars were fine, beam was a disaster, and floor just isn’t quite there yet apart from a few routines.

VT: Haleigh Bryant, 9.900
UB: Maggie O’Hara, 9.900 (let’s talk about her transferring to the SEC and immediately winning a bars title)
BB: Kennedy Hambrick, 9.925
FX: Kiya Johnson, 10.000
AA: Kennedy Hambrick, 39.400

Live blog by Tara Graeve

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