Trinity Thomas celebrates after her bars routine

LIVE BLOG: No. 2 Florida at No. 8 LSU

Welcome to your Friday Night Heights nightcap! Hopefully you’re wide awake because this top 10 rivalry could go either way.

LSU has been in the trenches since losing Kiya Johnson, but many team members have stepped up in her absence. Despite a losing record, LSU currently ranks third in the SEC and stands to benefit from NQS rankings with a good score tonight. Aleah Finnegan has scored a perfect 10 the last two meets in a row and with tonight’s matchup taking place in the PMAC, she could easily score her third in a row. Jay Clark has been exploring depth in his lineups, particularly on bars where multiple gymnasts have debuted this season, most recently Ashley Cowan. Clark will want his best lineups for tonight’s matchup, and we’re interested to see who makes the cut.

Florida has a chance to secure the regular season SEC championship tonight with a win and a Kentucky loss. Even if the title isn’t won tonight, there are other reasons the Gators will want an outstanding performance. Florida lacks one road score to earn a NQS and tonight is the perfect opportunity to secure one. Trinity Thomas is on a quest to break the perfect 10 record set by Jenny Hansen and Jamie Dantzscher. With a perfect 10 on any event tonight, Thomas will surpass Hope Spivey and be in third place all-time with 25 perfect 10s. In this score-friendly environment, she could very well do it tonight. Jenny Rowland also has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to depth, so her lineup choices tonight will likely be good insight as to how she expects them to look as we approach the halfway point of the season.

Lineups were posted on Twitter. We have SEVEN all-arounders scheduled to go tonight. Dicello, Richards, Thomas and Wong will compete AA for the Gators and Bryant, Finnegan, and Shchennikova for the Tigers.

Rotation 1: LSU vault, Florida bars

Arenas (LSU) – Yurchenko full, good height off the table, hop back on the landing. 9.875.

Blakely (UF) – Mount on low bar, Maloney with leg separation to Pak salto, better on keeping the legs together. Double front dismount with a big step forward. 9.750.

Shchennikova (LSU) – Yurchenko 1.5, bent arms on the table but still got good height. Hop back on the landing. 9.825

Nguyen (UF) – mount on low bar, beautiful first handstand, Maloney to Pak salto, leg separation on the Pak and the feet hit the ground, so Blakely’s score likely now will count. Double layout with a hop forward on the landing. 9.575.

Finnegan (LSU) – Omelianchik with the college stick (step forward and quick salute). Overrotated slightly, but beautiful technique. 9.950…..I would not have gone that just for the landing.

Dicello (UF) – mount on high bar, Ray is very high , Pak salto was floaty, the Van Leeuwen was beautiful, full twisting double back is hit! 9.900.

Brock (LSU) – Yurchenko 1.5 with a step forward. Solid height off the table and amplitude in the air. 9.825.

Thomas (UF) – mount on low bar, Maloney to Pak salto is nicely connected. Van Leeuwen is nailed, double layout stuck.  Crazy she hasn’t gotten a 10 on bars yet this season! 9.975. So she won’t tonight either. Boo.

KJ Johnson (LSU) – Yurchenko full, chest up on the landing with a hop back. 9.850.

Wong (UF) – mount on low bar, Maloney to Pak salto with the tiniest leg separation, Van Leeuwen back to high bar, Double layout stuck, maybe a low chest on that landing? 9.950.

Bryant (LSU) – FHS pike half, STUCK. And really stuck. Chest was higher than it has been in these landings, so don’t be surprised if this goes high. 9.975. I really thought they would throw it because of Finnegan’s 9.950, but not today.

Richards (UF) – We missed the beginning of Richards routine looking for Bryant’s score, but the Maloney and the double layout dismount had major leg separation. 9.850.

After 1: LSU 49.475, Florida 49.425

Well…that happened. Honestly, it was a good rotation. Florida avoided having to count a sub 9.600 score but Blakely’s 9.750 isn’t one it really wanted to count either. Ending the rotation with four scores above a 9.850 is a good start. The Tigers had a clean vault rotation, didn’t quite get all the landings they wanted, so they will want to hone in on those as they go to bars.

Rotation 2: Florida vault, LSU bars

Apparently, there was a rough warmup on vault for Richards and Blakely.

Clark (UF) – Yurchenko full, good height in the air, hop back on the landing.

Jeffrey (LSU) – mount on low bar, Maloney to Pak salto with leg separation, beautiful final handstand, full twisting double back, stuck with a deep knee bend. 9.900.

Wong (UF) – Podkopayeva, big hop back on the landing. 9.800.

Arenas (LSU) – Mount on high bar, maybe short on the first handstand. Tkatchev was beautiful, Pak salto to low bar with leg separation, short on final handstand. Stuck double layout. 9.900.

Richards (UF) – Yurchenko 1.5 with a hop forward. Lacked some height in the air. After a scary warmup, she’ll take it. 9.875.

Tatum (LSU) – Mount on high bar, Ray to immediate Pak salto, shy on the last handstand, stuck full twisting double tuck. 3/3 on stuck landings! 9.900.

Dicello (UF) – Yurchenko 1.5 with a hop forward, lacking a little bit of technique in the air.  9.875.

Finnegan (LSU) – Piked deltchev caught with slightly bent arms, bail to handstand, arched the back on the handstand. Double arabian dismount with a small step forward. 9.850.

Thomas (UF) – Yurchenko 1.5, lots of distance with a hop forward on the landing. She twisted early on the table. 9.925.

Shchennikova (LSU) – mount on high bar, Ray to immediate Pak salto, best technique I’ve seen from her, double layout (piked of course) stuck on her tiptoes. 9.850.

Edwards (UF) – Yurchenko full, good block, low chest and piked on the landing. Step back on the landing. 9.825.

Bryant (LSU) – mount on high bar, straddled Jaeger was clean, bail to handstand is right at 180. Double front with a half twist, stuck! 9.950.

After 2: LSU 98.975, Florida 98.775

Two tenths separates these top ten teams. Florida has not been able to hone in on the landings today and it is being reflected in the scores. LSU stuck the majority of their bars landings and, like the Gators, they tallied four scores over 9.900. Told y’all this was going to be close.

Rotation 3: LSU beam, Florida floor

Arenas (LSU) –  Switch leap to split jump, slightly under 180 on the second leap. BHS LOSO series is hit. Front toss is much cleaner. Her finally being a consistent beamer is my favorite thing to come out of LSU this season. Switch half had a nice position in the air. RO 1.5 with a tiny step forward on the landing. 9.825.

Nguyen (UF) – First pass is front double twist into a sissone, something looked funny to me on the front handspring, but she got the landing. Good positions and extension in the leaps. Back 1.5 to front layout, good amplitude between the skills, step on the landing. 9.925.

Shchennikova (LSU) – Balance check on the full turn, front aerial to BHS-BHS series was clean. Tight on the leap series but stayed on the beam. Side aerial, low chest. BHS swingthrough to gainer full with a stick. 9.850.

Baumann (UF) – beautiful double wolf turn! Back 1.5 to front full first pass was spot on. Immaculate toe point and good positions on the straddle jumps. Double pike with a hop back and slide of front foot, but the technique in the pike was spot on. 9.925.

Rivers (LSU) – BHS LOSO straight on the beam. Clean on the full turn. Switch half, shy on the 180 position. Switch leap to straddle quarter, better position on the switch. RO double twist with a stick! The Tigers have the stick bug tonight. 9.900.

Richards (UF) – Double layout first pass, clean in the air. Second pass is back 1.5 to front form, lost the form and bent the knees because she mistimed the punch. 9.675.

KJ Johnson (LSU) – First time we’ve seen her on beam in a bit, so let’s see how this goes. Switch leap to standing back tuck to straddle quarter series, nailed it! New combination series and she nailed it. BHS LOSO is clean, BHS 1.5 twist with a hop forward. That series change might keep her in that lineup. 9.875.

Judges conference on Richards’ floor. Potentially a start value issue due to the weirdness of that last pass. Start value was determined to be a 9.900.

Wong (UF) – Double arabian with a step back. Leap series was oversplit and beautiful. This choreography is WOW. Slightly off on that last pass, looked like she was crooked stepping out of it. 9.825.

Bryant (LSU) – Front aerial to BHS series is clean. Switch leap to straddle quarter, good positions in the leaps. Standing front tuck, had to lift her leg to correct her balance. Stick on the dismount. 9.925….yeah, that’s not what I would’ve done. We’re entering crack territory.

Thomas (UF) – Double layout, nailed it with the chest up. Good height on the leaps and jumps! Second pass is back 1.5 to front layout, clean, but scooted back on the front layout so shouldn’t be a 10, but ya never know. 9.950.

Finnegan (LSU) – BHS LOSO LOSO series right in the middle of the beam. Switch leap to split jump, good positions in the air. Front aerial, confidently landed. Gainer full, stuck. That could be her third 10.0 in a row with the way tonight has gone so far. And she does. 10.0 on beam for Finnegan!

Dicello (UF) – Dicello needs a hit to drop a 9.675. First pass is front double twist, slightly uncontrolled lunge forward but still clean. Good position on the switch ring. Back 1.5 to front layout is clean. Florida will drop the 9.675. 9.950.

After 3: LSU 148.525, Florida 148.350

Finnegan scores her third 10.0 in three weeks and LSU heads to floor with a .175 lead. Florida is heading to an event where it shines and the scores have been getting higher and higher, so I’m scared for what’s next.

Rotation 4: Florida beam, LSU floor

Richards (UF) – BHS LOSO series is right in the middle of the beam. Might’ve missed the connection between the leap series, gets it on the second series, but lost toe point on the straddle jump. BHS 1.5 twist, holds on for the college stick. 9.750.

Ballard (LSU) – Double layout first pass, controlled lunge out of it. Back 1.5 to front layout combination pass is clean. Switch ring to switch half to one knee, Kathy really likes that combination as she reminds me every time she watches this routine. Double pike last pass, small shuffle of the front foot. 9.875.

Lazarri (UF) – BHS LOSO LOSO is clean. Switch leap to split jump, great extension in those leaps. Front aerial, beautiful toe point. BHS 1.5 with a hop on the landing. 9.900.

Shchennikova (LSU) – Front double twist to arabesque out of it. The little girls doing the choreography in the stands kills me. Back 1.5 to front layout is floaty and connected. Switch ring to switch half, needed more height in the second leap. Rudi to split jump, travels back in the split jump. 9.925…..sigh.

Nguyen (UF) – Onodi to BHS series, AHHH! I love it! Leg lift turn, bobbles with a balance break. Good position in the leaps. BHS 1.5 twist dismount, stuck. Likely won’t be a 9.900 that they need with the balance issues, but we’ll see. 9.850.

Arenas (LSU) – In for Brock on this event and now her first time in the all-around! Front double full, controlled with a large step forward. Leap series looked great in the air! Cartwheel layout to get her back tumbling element. Front layout to front full for her final pass, controlled beautifully.

Dicello (UF) – Double wolf turn is hit. Switch leap to split jump combination, BHS LOSO, nice in the air. Front aerial, nice toe point. BHS swingthrough to gainer full, stuck. That could be another 10.0. 9.975. Boo again. 

KJ Johnson (LSU) – Tucked full-in, ALMOST went out of bounds. Literally if her foot had gone down, she’d be out. Back 1.5 to front layout combination pass was beautiful. Leap series had good positions in the air. Final pass is double tuck, slide of the front foot on the landing.

Thomas (UF) – Get ready, this is going to be wild. One-armed BHS to LOSO. Beat jump to BHS swingdown is gorgeous in the air. Side aerial to 1.5 twist, stuck. If that doesn’t go 10, nothing makes sense. And there it is! 10.0 for Thomas!

Finnegan (LSU) – Double arabian to stag jump first pass. 2.5 twist to punch front second pass, nicely controlled. Leap series looked a little short, but the angle might be weird for me. Tucked her final pass (back 1.5 to supposed to be front layout) similarly to Richards. Still beautiful, but will need a hit from Bryant. 9.900 absolutely not and I love Finnegan.

Wong (UF) – Switch leap to sissone leap series is clean. BHS LOSO series is clean. Front aerial to beat jump, slight hesitation between the skills. Stuck, but deep bend on the landing. Needs a 9.925 to keep them in contention. 9.900, so LSU will win regardless.

Bryant (LSU) – Double front, step backwards on the landing. Front layout to front full second pass is clean. Beautiful toe point on the leap series. Front double twist with a stick. Last time Florida came to LSU, she sat that last pass down, but not today. 9.925!

FINAL: LSU 198.100, Florida 197.975

LSU joins the 198 club with a huge performance in the PMAC! Florida finally found its landings in the final rotation and capped it off with a 10.0 for Trinity Thomas, giving her 25 total and three away from tying, four away from breaking the perfect 10 record!

VT: Haleigh Bryant (LSU) – 9.975
UB: Trinity Thomas (UF) – 9.975
BB: Aleah Finnegan (LSU) and Trinity Thomas (UF) – 10.000
FX: KJ Johnson (LSU), Kayla DiCello & Trinity Thomas (UF)– 9.950
AA: Trinity Thomas (UF) – 39.850

READ THIS NEXT: Florida Gifts First HBCU Team Fisk Leotards, Spring Floor

Live blog by Savanna Whitten

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