Advertisement

LSU gymnastics gets over the hump, wins first national championship in program history

This season, LSU gymnastics made the NCAA Tournament for the 33rd time. But on Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth, Texas, the Tigers finally captured their elusive first national championship.

LSU took an early lead with a near-perfect start on the floor exercise, as a 9.9375 from senior star Haleigh Bryant set the tone for one of five 9.9s on the event. However, the Tigers' second event in the vault — which ended with three scores in the 9.8s forced to count — opened the window for the other three teams to capitalize, closing the LSU lead to just a tenth of a point heading to the last two rotations.

Despite a solid performance on the uneven parallel bars, the momentum left the Tigers and went to the Utah Utes, who took the lead heading into the fourth and final rotation, with the top three separated by less than two tenths.

It wasn't easy on the balance beam, however. As difficult as it already is ending on beam, it was made even more so when Savannah Schoenherr fell. But even that wasn't enough to slow down the Tigers. Aleah Finnegan finished the meet with a 9.95, giving LSU the title with a score of 198.225. Cal finished second with a 197.85, with Utah third with a 197.8 and Florida fourth with a 197.4375.

Utes mistakes help lead to Tigers' title

Utah led after three and definitely had the momentum. The Utes were also finishing on the vault, widely considered to be the best event to end on.

More LSU Sports: LSU football transfer portal tracker: Who's in, out for LSU Tigers ahead of 2024 season

Apr 20, 2024; Fort Worth, TX, USA; LSU Tigers gymnast Aleah Finnegan performs on floor exercise during the 2024 Womens National Gymnastics Championship at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 20, 2024; Fort Worth, TX, USA; LSU Tigers gymnast Aleah Finnegan performs on floor exercise during the 2024 Womens National Gymnastics Championship at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

But then, each of the first two gymnasts fell, forcing a 9.675 to count. LSU jumped at the opportunity from the balance beam. The Tigers scored five 9.9s and set a program record on the beam in the process.

Rebound from floor mistake

KJ Johnson's 9.2875 on the floor exercise could have spelled disaster for LSU. As just the third routine — a routine that followed back-to-back 9.9s — that needed to be the drop.

More LSU Sports: LSU basketball roster tracker: Who's staying, leaving, and joining the Tigers?

Apr 20, 2024; Fort Worth, TX, USA; The LSU Tigers gymnastics team celebrates after winning the national championship in the 2024 Womens National Gymnastics Championship at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 20, 2024; Fort Worth, TX, USA; The LSU Tigers gymnastics team celebrates after winning the national championship in the 2024 Womens National Gymnastics Championship at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As it turned out, it was. Aleah Finnegan, Bryant, and Kiya Johnson all responded with 9.925s or better to drop KJ Johnson's score and establish a lead through the first rotation.

Slow start on vault

After LSU's first three vaults — KJ Johnson, Finnegan, and Amari Drayton — all ended up in the 9.8s, the other three teams were quick to capitalize.

Schoenherr tried to stem the tide with her 9.875, but despite posting the best score to this point, she still couldn't break the 9.9 barrier. It took two straight 9.9s from Kiya Johnson and Bryant to right the ship, but not before the remaining teams — especially Utah — closed the gap.

Apr 20, 2024; Fort Worth, TX, USA; The LSU Tigers gymnastics team celebrates after winning the national championship in the 2024 Womens National Gymnastics Championship at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 20, 2024; Fort Worth, TX, USA; The LSU Tigers gymnastics team celebrates after winning the national championship in the 2024 Womens National Gymnastics Championship at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This article originally appeared on The Courier: LSU gymnastics wins first national championship in program history