It may be a new year in 2019 and a new season of NCAA Gymnastics beginning Friday, but some things never change even as time moves on. That is if you count LSU Gymnastics continuing to set home attendance records and extending their winning streak in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge to a staggering 35 straight meets.
In front of a packed opening-night crowd at LSU, the pre-season number four Tigers outpaced the eighth-ranked Cal Golden Bears 196.775-195.650 to get their season off to a strong start in a competitive and high-quality encounter.
For the Tigers, things began slightly shaky, with two falls on Yurchenko one-and-a-halfs from Ruby Harrold and Sarah Edwards leaving LSU trailing after the first rotation despite big scores of 9.900 and 9.875 from seniors Lexie Priessman and Sarah Finnegan respectively on their Yurchenko fulls. Cal’s strong start on the uneven bars allowed the Golden Bears to get out to the early lead on the road, helped by 9.875s from Nina Schank and Emi Watterson.
Moving onto the second rotation, the home-team Tigers began to settle in on their best event from last season, the uneven bars, where LSU ranked number one in the nation. Kennedi Edney’s powerful bars routine set the tone for the rotation with a 9.900 while junior Ruby Harrold responded after her fall on vault with a huge 9.925 for her unique set. Senior star Finnegan closed things out as the anchor for the Tigers, continuing her impressive night with a 9.900 to the roar of the Tiger crowd. While LSU was soaring back on the uneven bars, solid vaulting, including a nice 9.850 from freshman Milan Clausi, allowed Cal to stay in it, tied with the Tigers after two rotations in Baton Rouge.
Some lower scores early in the floor exercise lineup hurt Cal in rotation three, however fifth-year senior and former Jamaican Olympian Toni-Ann Williams impressed for the Golden Bears with her 9.850 routine. The visitors from Berkeley were unable to keep pace with the beautiful beam work from LSU however, where sophomore Reagan Campbell went 9.875 before setting up anchor Sarah Finnegan with a near-flawless 9.9.50 to put the Tigers in the lead going into the final rotation.
Closing the night on the balance beam, Cal struggled to post the big scores LSU saw in the previous rotation, however solid and steady performances from all their athletes allowed the Bears to keep pace. On the floor exercise to close out the meet, the Tigers and the raucous LSU crowd delivered, welcoming McKenna Kelley back from a torn achilles last season into meet action where she stole the show with her big tumbling for a 9.900. Finnegan closed out the meet for LSU and secured the season-opening win with her beautiful work on the floor, going 9.950, also winning the all-around crown with a 39.675 over teammate Kennedi Edney.Tags: Cal, Cal Golden Bears, Emi Watterson, Kennedi Edney, Lexie Priessman, LSU, LSU Tigers, McKenna Kelley, Milan Clausi, NCAA Gymnastics, Nina Schank, Reagan Campbell, Ruby Harrold, Sarah Edwards, Sarah Finnegan, Toni-Ann Williams