LSU at Utah
|VT: Bryant, Smith 9.900
|UB: McCallum 9.925
|BB: O’Keefe 9.950
|FX: Finnegan 9.950
|AA: Bryant, Finnegan 39.450
The Big Storyline: In front of a packed home crowd, Utah used its trademark event—beam—to distance itself from visiting LSU in a battle of two top 10 teams to open the season. Freshman Makenna Smith had an impressive start to her season, tying for the vault title on her first college routine, while Maile O’Keefe anchored the Utes’ 49.475 beam lineup to highlight a night when Utah did have to overcome two falls. The Tigers had no falls, but small errors compiled despite standout all-around performances from returning star Haleigh Bryant and emerging star Aleah Finnegan.
Implications: With strong performances for the opening weekend of the season, both teams showed that they will be in contention for conference titles and spots at nationals. Utah was one of two teams to break 197 on the first evening of the season, trailing only Florida’s 197.750.
Records: Despite the loss, LSU’s total was its highest opening road score in program history.
Controversies: With the most-followed college athlete, Olivia Dunne, at the meet came a bit of drama. A large number of teenage boys swarmed the exit of the arena, bombarding those leaving, asking where the Tiger gymnast was and if she would be making an appearance soon, and causing LSU to move its team bus to avoid the crowd.
Current Rankings: No. 6 LSU at No. 3 Utah
Why You Should Cancel Plans for It: In the biggest dual meet of the opening weekend, a pair of top-ranked and national-title-hopefuls will battle one another to kick off the season. The Utes enter 2023 coming off back-to-back third-place finishes at the national championships and are looking to get back to the top of the podium, while the Tigers are looking to bounce back from a rough end to 2022 where they were stunned in the second round of regionals in a season with a national title as a realistic goal. Both teams are loaded with talent again this year and this opening meet is a great opportunity to get a decent idea of what to expect from each program over the next few months.
What We’re Watching: Set for her NCAA debut is former five-star and top-10 recruit Makenna Smith, who competed in the all-around at the Red Rocks Preview and was in the presumed top-six on at least bars and vault—where she stuck her 10.0 start value Omelianchik. This meet, which should be a toss-up, will also feature a stellar all-around bout between Utah’s Grace McCallum and LSU’s Haleigh Bryant and Kiya Johnson, who are all capable of 10s on several events.
What Else to Know Before Tuning in: Despite being in different parts of the country, these two programs have several ties to one another. LSU’s assistant coaching duo—Garrett Griffeth and Courtney McCool Griffeth—previously coached at Utah before moving back to the SEC. The Utes’ volunteer assistant coach, Myia Hambrick, was an All-American as a Tiger. Cammy Hall, who transferred from Utah to LSU over the summer, was set to be a factor for the Tigers on vault but is sidelined for the season with an injury.
- Video Type: ESPN2
- Video: https://www.espn.com/watch/player/_/id/7863a22d-1cc3-4938-9d3a-ab872c560bf5
- Scores: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/broadcast/?id=437048
- Live Blog: https://collegegymnews.com/2023/01/06/live-blog-no-6-lsu-at-no-3-utah/
- Live Blog Editor: Savanna