LIVE BLOG: No. 8 LSU at No. 23 Arkansas

Welcome to the final SEC meet of the evening! If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Get ready to watch the Tigers take on the Razorbacks. 

LSU is coming off its second 197-plus score of the season in its victory over Missouri last weekend. Although the Tigers are likely not overjoyed with their performance, the fact that this team has scored higher without Kiya Johnson than with her says a great deal about this team’s grit. There’s been many lineup shuffles with athletes making event and collegiate debuts. I could go on and on about Haleigh Bryant, but if you don’t know she’s one of the best in the NCAA by now, I don’t know what to tell you. She got a 10.0 last week on vault. I need not say more. Of the newcomers to the lineup, the one I want to highlight is Tori Tatum on bars. She seemed to finally get into a groove last week, so I’m interested to see how she does this week. Speaking of “interested to see,” let’s talk about Aleah Finnegan. Phenomenal gymnastics. Hasn’t quite brought the consistency yet, especially in the big time moments. The record right now indicates that every other meet will be out of the ballpark, so we’re due for another stellar night from Finnegan in Barnhill tonight. 

The Razorbacks are having a somewhat slow start to the season with some issues on bars and beam the last two meets. This is a very young team, with half its routines coming from newcomers, so it’s not completely surprising that things look a bit shaky in January. Now, it is a bit surprising to see fifth year Kennedy Hambrick struggling this season, especially with how amazing she’s looked the past few seasons. Maybe the return to Barnhill will relight her spark. Some of the freshmen to watch are Lauren Williams and Frankie Price. These two have been making some major noise on the leg events so far this season. Williams competes a strong 10.0 start value vault, while Price has one of the most floaty double layouts in NCAA gymnastics. Oh yeah, don’t forget Norah Flatley, either. She was amazing at UCLA, and she’s amazing now. Watch out for her double E pass floor routine. Assuming we see it tonight, since her numbers are being managed per last weekend’s commentators. 

Anyways, the rankings don’t appear to be that close, but anything can happen in the SEC. LSU has already been upset by Kentucky this season, and Mizzou hung close in the PMAC last weekend until the team fell apart on beam. Arkansas is at home. I can’t wait to see how things unfold. 

Rotation 1: Arkansas VT, LSU UB

I sincerely apologize. Technical difficulties.

I got a glimpse of Tori Tatum with a stick crown. 9.850

Smith (Ark): Y full with a sizable hop back. Not a horrible shape in the air. 9.775

Finnegan (LSU): Piked delchev. Short handstand, toe hand, overshoot. Arabian double front with a step forward. Solid set. 9.850

Sedlacek (Ark): Y 1.5, a touch short with a step back. Legs soft in the air. 9.800

Shchennikova (LSU): Tkatchev to pak. Double layout, stuck. Better body position in the air. 9.875

Williams (Ark): Stuck Y 1.5 for the Arkansas local. Lovely line in the air. 9.925

Bryant (LSU): Blind, Jaeger. Nice. Overshoot. Right to the handstand. Just a step back on the double front with a half. 9.850

Here’s some other scores: Cami Weaver (Ark) 9.875, Norah Flatley (Ark) 9.850, Frankie Price (Ark) 9.850, Alexis Jeffery (LSU) 9.850, Elena Arenas (LSU) 9.875.

AFTER ONE: Arkansas 49.300, LSU 49.300

Well I was personally victimized by ESPN+ during that first rotation, but we’re back in business. We’re all tied up after two… so it’s anyone’s game at this point. 49.300 is a little lower than LSU has been scoring on bars, so the Tigers will likely want to pick up the pace.

Rotation 2: LSU VT, Arkansas UB

Arenas (LSU): Y full, a bit piked on the landing with a scoot back. Maybe a touch of leg separation on the table. 9.825

Swaney (Ark): Toe hand, Ray. Pak salto. Late on the turn on high bar. Double layout. Stuck. Some handstand problems there but nice toe point throughout. 9.825

Shchennikova (LSU): Y 1.5, a bit flat with a hop forward. Good shape in the air. 9.875

Scalzo (Ark): Blind, Jaeger to overshoot. Smooth. Strong last handstand. Double layout, piked down with a medium hop back. 9.825

Finnegan (LSU): Yurchenko half on, front pike off. Pretty short with two steps back. Just managed to keep it on her feet. Good fight. 9.675

Drotar (Ark): A touch short on the first handstand. Toe hand, Maloney, overshoot. Double layout, stuck. Another hit set. 9.875

Brock (LSU): Y 1.5 with a step forward, good form in the air. Good for her with that upgrade this year! 9.900

Jones (Ark): Blind, piked Jaeger. Could’ve held the toe point better. Pak salto, nice and floaty. Double layout, stuck it with a lean forward. 9.875

Johnson (LSU): Yurchenko full is stuck this week. She’s back in business! 9.950. So it’s perfect.

Pratt (Ark): Ray. Short HS to overshoot to toe up to high. Short last HS as well. Double layout. Nice and stuck too. You get a stick! You get a stick. We all get a stick. 9.850

Bryant (LSU): About a 0.50 tenth scoot on her FHS front pike half today. Perfect in the air as usual. 9.950

Flatley (Ark): Half turn to eagle grip. Jaeger. Toe hand to overshoot. Perfect last handstand. Double layout. STUCK. If it’s not 9.9-plus, I don’t want it. 9.925. Thanks judges 🙂

AFTER TWO: LSU 98.800, Arkansas 98.650

Overall, that was a solid rotation for both teams. Arkansas was on fire with the stuck dismounts like they haven’t been all year. LSU left some tenths out there on landings, but the back half of the lineup really brought it home, each going over 9.900. I love seeing Chase Brock doing so well with her upgraded vault so far this season. She’s really solidifying her position in that lineup.

Rotation 3: Arkansas BB, LSU FX

Gamiao (Ark): LOSO LOSO. Lovely. Side somi with the best smile. Go on! Switch leap, split jump. A small check on the turn. RO back 1.5. A college stick I guess. Looked controlled but hit a step salute to the judge. Good lead off routine. She was comfy up there. 9.875

Ballard (LSU): Double layout. A touch under so has so step forward. Good stretched shape in the air. Back 1.5 to front lay. Soft knees. Also under. Switch ring, switch half. Nice lines. Double pike. Best landing so far. 9.825

Gianfagna (Ark): I think this is her first routine this year? BHS LOSO. Soft knees in the BHS. Dusting the shoulder off. Front toss to beat jump. A little low on the landing. Good extension on the straddle half. RO back 1.5 with just a baby hop forward. 9.850

Shchennikova (LSU): Front double full. Crossed legs. Turned right into the ground so a uncontrolled step. Back 1.5, front full. Danced right out. Switch leap, switch half. A little under position on both. Rudi to split jump. Good control. 9.800

This is the fastest run meet in history. My word.

Swaney (Ark): A unique walkover mount. BHS LOSO LOSO. So solid. Good redemption from last week. Switch leap, split jump. Good position. BHS 1.5 dismount. stuck. That should be a high score. 9.900

Brock (LSU): Another shot at redemption. We love to see it. Double pike. Absolutely HUGE and well controlled. Double tuck. Also so high in the air. A little slide back. Switch side, popa. A little under rotated. Back 1.5 to front full. Good set for her! 9.825

Hambrick (Ark): BHS LOSO with a lean to the side. Switch leap, switch side with a leg up check. Beat to straddle 3/4. Cartwheel gainer full dismount. Stuck. Not great but a make just the same. Arkansas will hope to drop that score. 9.725 might be generous.

Johnson (LSU): FTDT to start. A bit bouncy, just keeps it in bounds with a heel hover. Back 1.5 front layout. Fine. Switch side, popa. I just realized no double buns today. Double tuck. Strong landing. Finishing with a crown. 9.875

Weaver (Ark): BHS LOSO LOSO. Just saves the fall with a step back and a chest down lean. Good save. Switch leap, straddle jump. Very few can make that jump look that good. RO back 1.5. Tried to save the stick with a lean and an arm circle. So maybe this is the one to drop? 9.625

Finnegan (LSU): An “I got this nod” before the first pass. Arabian double front, a baby pause before the deer jump out. Good height with the knees glued together. Back 2.5 front tuck. Worked with it. Switch ring to tour jete half. A bit awkward on the connection timing. Back 1.5 front layout. Good layout position. 9.900

Flatley (Ark): Front aerial BHS LOSO. A small foot adjustment. Nothing to see here. Leg up turn to split jump. So fierce up there. BHS back 1.5 dismount. SHE DOES NOT MISS. 9.900

Bryant (LSU): Front double front. Just lovely. Sit back and enjoy. Front lay, Rudi. Another solid landing. She’s dialed in. Switch ring, switch half. Over 180 there. Front double full. So much power, so let’s turn and dance. 9.875

AFTER THREE: LSU 148.100, Arkansas 147.900

Welp, Arkansas is definitely still in this one as it heads to floor. The Razorbacks have put themselves in a great position to challenge LSU for the win here. It would’ve been easy to count a big mistake on that event but Arkansas fought for every tenth. LSU fought on floor, but counted a couple too many 9.8s to separate itself from Arkansas. I felt like Bryant’s score could’ve been a hair low, but that’s neither here nor there.

Rotation 4: LSU BB, Arkansas FX 

A swag surf to prep for the final rotation.

Rivers (LSU): So this meet is a redemption tour? BHS LOSO, snaps those arms down. Just a small correction. Switch half, small lean. Switch leap, straddle 1/4. Paused between that a bit too long. RO double full is stuck. She looked a bit nervy, but it’s a make. 9.700

Jones (Ark): PRESENTATION. Front double full. Such a good landing there. No leg crossing in sight. Switch ring, switch half, dance out. RO back 1.5 to front lay. Danced out there too. Deep breath to prep for the last pass. Rudi right in front of the student section. A little bounce to the lunge. Good lead off. 9.900. This is going to be good 🙂

Shchennikova (LSU): Candle stick mount to start. Front aerial, BHS BHS. A touch slow but the arms kept moving. Switch leap, split jump. A bit clunky on the switch. Side Aerial. Good correction. Sharp. BHS gainer full. really close to the beam. 9.800

Hickey (Ark): Double pike. Controlled well. Back 1.5, front layout. Back on her heels. Switch side, popa. A bit stiff in the hips, not fully straddled there. Some people cannot clap on beat. Double tuck. Short with a wild bound into the air. 9.750…

Ballard (LSU): BHS LOSO, lifted the front foot a bit quickly. So calm. Take a breath. Sissone, switch half. Front toss. Nice and high. I like it. RO back 1.5 with a step forward. 9.750

Lovett (Ark): Double layout. A touched piked down but controlled. She’s in law school. She can do no wrong. Double tuck. Her typical in the clouds amplitude. Switch half, popa. Good lines. Mary Lou Retton front and center. Front lay, front full. Good landing there with a dance out. My fantasy team thanks you. 9.900

Arenas (LSU): Switch leap, split. Back leg not quite there. BHS LOSO. Solid, touch of knees. Front toss. Sharp. Switch half. Giving no landing deductions away so far. RO back 1.5 dismount with a hop forward. LSU needs some sticks. 9.775

Smith (Ark): She’s in for Norah Flatley tonight. Starting with some stepping moves and a Wakanda forever. Front layout through to double tuck with a hop forward. Side aerial. She seems way more into this routine this year. Good straddle position on the leaps. Double pike. Nice and high. Just a small slide back to the lunge. A fist in the air to bring it home. 9.950. Absolutely not. So sorry.

Bryant (LSU): Front aerial BHS series. Shouting from the Arkansas fans. Strong leap there. Small check on the turn. Standing front. Fast arms to avoid the wobble. She’s fighting. Rudi dismount. Stuck. 9.900

Williams (Ark): FTDT. So nice. One of the best. Playing it up for the crowd. Back 1.5 front layout. Nice again. A worm because why not? Switch side, popa. A touch slow but around. Watch this. Double tuck. Gonna be a huge score, especially after the 9.950 from Leah Smith. I’m waiting for a 10.0 chant or something. 9.925?

Finnegan (LSU): A candle mount but with a half turn. BHS LOSO LOSO. Killed it. Switch leap, split jump. Small check on the turn. Front aerial. Pulled it right around. Gainer full. I wish I could see her feet. There was a small foot adjustment on replay. 9.925

Price (Ark): I love this choreography. Double layout was GINORMOUS. The challenge is to dance harder and bigger today, apparently. Switch side to popa. So high in the air. Back 1.5 to front pike was a bit undercooked. Who run the world? Frankie. Double pike with a hop back into the lunge. PERIODT. 9.900

Final: Arkansas 197.475, LSU 197.250

Okay. Some floor scores got out of hand, but I do feel like the result was correct. I told you anything could happen in the SEC. Apparently I’m only allowed to live blog power five upsets this season…

Arkansas’ goal heading into this meet was to stick more landings, and it did that. The freshmen competed like veterans today, and Norah Flatley was on her A game, yet again. What a fun experience to defeat the No. 8 team in the country with a new PROGRAM RECORD in front of a sold out crowd.

LSU looked so tentative on beam, trying too hard to stay on rather than knowing their ability to hit. However, the team did improve its team total over last weekend, so all is not lost. The athletes continue to step up to the plate day in and day out. Chase Brock looked much more comfortable out there today, so expect her to only get better. Obvious Haleigh Bryant did Haleigh Bryant things and was nearly perfect once again.

AA Winner: Haleigh Bryant (LSU), 39.575

VT Winner: Haleigh Bryant (LSU) & KJ Johnson (LSU), 9.950

UB Winner: Norah Flatley (Ark), 9.925

BB Winner: Aleah Finnegan (LSU), 9.925

FX Winner: Leah Smith (Ark), 9.950

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Live Blog by Tavia Smith

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One comment

  1. Totally disagree the correct team won. Arkansas floor scores were completely out of hand compared to how the judges scored LSU’s floor routines, and that was the difference in the meet.

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