The most highly-anticipated of this weekend’s conference championship competitions did not disappoint in front of a packed, purple and gold decked-out crowd in New Orleans at the Smoothie King Center, where the third-ranked and two-time defending SEC champions LSU Tigers came back in the final rotation and avenged their regular-season defeat to rivals Florida, claiming the SEC Gymnastics Championship title with a big 197.900 to the Gators’ 197.750.

A nearly-sold out crowd of over 10,000 made the trip to the Big Easy, being treated to some of the best collegiate gymnastics action in the country, with six-time national champions Alabama and ten-time national champions and 16-time SEC champs Georgia joining the Tigers and Gators at the top of the conference, posting scores of 197.350 and 197.00 for third and fourth place, respectively.

The night belonged to LSU however, making it a third SEC title for the Tigers’ program, having to fight harder than ever before to hoist this trophy. After dropping the regular-season meet to the Gators in Baton Rouge at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and failing to defend their SEC regular season championship title that Florida took this season, LSU was hungry for revenge and the Tigers brought the intensity from the get-go.

Sarah Finnegan celebrates after competing on the uneven bars for the The LSU Tigers at the SEC Gymnastics Championship in New Orleans, Louisiana/LSU Sports

In rotation one, the Tigers put down a marker with one of their best vault rotations of the year, with three powerful 9.900s from Sarah FinneganMcKenna Kelley, and Ruby Harrold giving LSU a strong start to the competition. In the second rotation, LSU moved to bars where the momentum continued, with the final three competitors in the lineup going 9.900 from Kennedi Edney, 9.925 from Lexie Priessman, and a near-perfect 9.950 from Finnegan to close out the rotation.

At the halfway point, the Tigers went to the balance beam, one of their stronger events this season, where LSU’s rotation was bookended by big scores in the leadoff role from Christina Desiderio with a 9.900 and the anchor spot from Finnegan with another 9.950. Still trailing Florida heading into the final rotation, LSU brought an incredibly determined and powerful floor exercise performance to give one final push towards the title. The Tigers totaled a massive 49.600 on the floor, where 9.900s from Priessman and Kelley and a 9.925 from Edney set up senior star Finnegan to clinch the meet and the SEC Championship title for the Tigers with a Perfect 10.0 to the roar of the heavily purple and gold crowd in New Orleans.

Despite the disappointment of falling to LSU after leading for three rotations, the fourth-ranked Florida Gators should be happy with another very complete performance, one good enough for second in the SEC. The bars were a strong starting point for Florida in the first rotation, with Amelia Hundley and Savannah Schoenherr posting 9.900s and Megan Skaggs anchoring with a 9.925. The Gators put up a massive number on the balance beam to close the second rotation, scoring a 49.625 for a rotation that included 9.950s from Skaggs, Rachel Gowey, and Alyssa Baumann.

In rotation three, Florida struggled on the floor, the rotation that ultimately cost them the title, where a fall from Skaggs and an out of bounds from freshman Nya Reed allowed LSU to start coming back despite big numbers from Alicia Boren with a 9.935 and Trinity Thomas and Baumann with 9.950s. The Gators’ lowest event rotation of the night came at the worst time, only posting one score above 9.900 from Thomas with a 9.950, a finish that allowed LSU to complete the comeback and steal the championship trophy from the Tigers at the end.

Trinity Thomas performs on the floor exercise for the Florida Gators at the SEC Gymnastics Championship in New Orleans, Louisiana/Florida Athletics

Alabama enjoyed their best meet of the season thanks in part to a phenomenal performance in the all-around form sophomore Lexi Graber, scoring a 9.900 on vault, 9.950 on beam, and a 9.925 on floor for the Crimson Tide. Shallon Olsen also posted a big mark of 9.925 on the beam while Maddie Desch and Abby Armbrecht went 9.900 on the floor and Ari Guerra anchored with a 9.925 to close a very strong meet for the Tide.

It was a slightly disappointing performance for the eighth-ranked Georgia Gymdogs, finishing fourth with a 197.000, a score they’ll hope to increase to strengthen their chances at making another appearance at nationals this season. The Bulldogs’ night was highlighted by Rachel Dickson‘s 9.900s on bars and beam and a 9.925 on floor as well as Sydney Snead‘s 9.900 on the vault. The Gymdogs also enjoyed an impressive bars rotation, adding 9.900s from Marissa OakleyAlexa Al-Hameed, and Megan Roberts.

Rounding out the SEC was Arkansas in fifth with a 196.475, Auburn in sixth with a 196.375, Kentucky in seventh with a 196.225, and Missouri in eighth with a 195.900.

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