SEC Gymnastics Week 3 Preview: Arkansas vs. Alabama highlights four exciting conference matchups

By Elizabeth Hunter | January 19, 2024
Alabama's Shania Adams on floor at the 2024 Mean Girls Super 16 meet.
© Filippo Tomasi/Gymnastics Now

The first month of NCAA season is flying by, and several SEC gymnastics teams are suiting up for big matchups that will prepare them for the postseason.

After beating Missouri, Alabama claimed the No. 3 spot in the Road to Nationals rankings and will face No. 4 Arkansas in a dual this weekend.

Here’s where the rest of the SEC is ranked nationally this week: Kentucky claimed the No. 6 spot, Florida sits at No. 7, and LSU moved down to No. 8. Auburn and Missouri are tied for No. 12, while Georgia is No. 20.

#4 Arkansas @ #3 Alabama

Week 3 Matchup: Friday, January 19 @ 7:30 p.m. ET | Arkansas @ Alabama – Video (SECN)

Arkansas

The Razorbacks are ranked No. 4 after their week one meet against the Bulldogs saw them scoring a new program high for a season opener (197.15). It’s the first time Arkansas has been ranked in the top five since 2021, and Friday’s matchup against No. 3 Alabama will be the team’s first top-five matchup since 2012. The third rotation, when Arkansas will be on floor, could be a make-or-break moment; the Razorbacks are No. 1 in the nation on the event after earning the top score in the country with a 49.575 against Georgia.

Routines to Watch:

  • Frankie Price on floor: Price only does two passes in her floor routine this season after competing three all of last season. The adjustment seems to have paid off because she scored a 9.95 during last week’s meet, which officially puts her on 10.0 watch. 
  • Lauren Williams on floor: Williams also scored a 9.95 on floor last weekend and tied for the floor title with Price. Watching this routine, you see a gymnast put her all into the energy and charisma of her routine. Williams’ love for the sport really shines here.
  • Sirena Linton on beam: Linton didn’t have the best beam debut with her new team, but fans can be sure that once she finds her rhythm, it will be a high-scoring routine that will significantly aid the Razorbacks.

Alabama

It’s only Week 3, but Alabama will be competing in their third top-five matchup of the season. The Tide does have the upperhand going into this meet with two meets already under their belt (to Arkansas’ one) and two scores over 197. The Razorbacks haven’t defeated Alabama since 2017.

Routines to Watch:

  • Luisa Blanco on bars: Blanco was named SEC Co-Gymnast of the Week after she recorded the highest all-around score of any SEC gymnast in Week 2 (39.675). Blanco’s technique could be admired on every event, but she has scored a 9.95 on bars in back-to-back weeks with a stuck landing and perfect handstands.
  • Chloe LaCoursiere on bars: As a freshman, LaCoursiere has proved that she knows how to be a leadoff for the Tide. She sets a clean standard for Alabama to follow the rest of the lineup and has scored a 9.9-or-above both weeks of competition. 
  • Gabby Gladieux on floor: Gladieux has never scored a 10.0, but she’s definitely on the hunt for one this season. Her floor score dropped from the first week (9.975 to 9.9), but she still has one of the most dynamic routines in the SEC. Watch for incredible height on her full-in.

#6 Kentucky @ #8 LSU

Week 3 Matchup: Friday, January 19 @ 9:00 p.m. ET | Kentucky @ LSU – Live Stats | Video (SECN)

This matchup is particularly exciting as three-time Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman will be making her commentating debut alongside fellow Olympian John Roethlisberger.

Kentucky

The Wildcats are ranked ahead of the Tigers as they head to Baton Rouge this weekend. In their last regular season head-to-head matchup in 2023, Kentucky beat LSU, 197.125-196.575. The Wildcats currently hold the highest team score (197.475) across all SEC teams, but will need to increase their average bars score (9.82) from last week if they want to push their score into the upper 197s. 

Routines to Watch:

  • Raena Worley on floor: Although there isn’t an event where Worley doesn’t make fans stop and stare, her floor (and bars) routine this season could earn her her first ever 10.0. Worley was named SEC Co-Gymnast of the Week for her all-around performance against Auburn (39.650).
  • Creslyn Brose on floor: Brose had a captivating floor routine last week that scored a 9.95 and earned the rookie her first career floor title (tied with Worley). The height and control in her passes, plus her stage presence, make her a fun athlete to watch. 
  • Bailey Bunn on beam: Bunn sustained a knee injury in 2022 that has forced her to compete only bars and beam. Although fans have missed her in the all-around, her beam routine is strong and confident, which makes it a staple of the Wildcats’ lineup. 

LSU

The Tigers will have a challenge this weekend against Kentucky as they look to end the Wildcats’ three year head-to-head winning streak. Luckily for LSU, their home arena is always packed with Tiger fans, which could give them the advantage.

The Tigers will need to keep their floor and bar scores consistent and get into the 49+ range on beam while continuing to clean up landings on vault. The beam lineup may change as they are still looking for the most consistent athletes.

Routines to watch:

  • Konnor McClain on bars: McClain scored the nation’s first 10.0 last weekend on bars and was named SEC Specialist of the Week. Since LSU will be leaning on bars to help them beat Kentucky, McClain’s routine will be especially important this weekend.
  • Aleah Finnegan on floor: Finnegan is no stranger to perfect 10s, but she is on the 2024 watch list after scoring a 9.975 at the Collegiate Quad.

#7 Florida @ #12 Auburn

Week 3 Matchup: Friday, January 19 @ 6 p.m. ET | Florida @ Auburn – Live Stats | Video (SECN)

Florida

The Gators have beat the Tigers head-to-head for the past six years.

In its season opener last weekend, Florida didn’t surpass the 49 mark on bars and had no gymnast score higher than a 9.875 on the event. The Gators had 10 freshmen routines in their lineups. If that’s the case again this weekend, there may be some nerves for the rookies in their first road test.

Routines to Watch:

  • Anya Pilgrim on floor: Pilgrim had a spectacular start to her college career and was picked as SEC Freshman of the Week. Pilgrim is the only freshman ranked in the top 10 of the nation’s all-arounders after scoring a 39.525 last weekend. She had amazing routines on all events, but floor was her best debut, scoring a 9.925. 
  • Ellie Lazzari on beam: A 9.975 beam routine has put Lazzari on the potential 10.0 list. Lazzari hasn’t scored a 10.0 before, but after her near-flawless execution in the first week of competition, it would not be surprising to see her score her first this season.

Auburn

“We have to get better this week,” Auburn head coach Jeff Graba said. “I’d like to see if we can get to the final event and have a shot at a team that’s trying to win the national championship. By default, that means that we can actually start thinking that way.”

The Tigers will have home field advantage as they gear up to try and take down the defending NCAA runner-up. Graba says that he is still feeling out different gymnasts in different lineups. Auburn has added 10 new gymnasts to its roster since last season, so fans can be certain that Graba has several different athletes in the queue waiting for their chance.

Routines to Watch:

  • Sophia Groth on floor: Groth started the season with a 9.800 and scored a 9.900 at home against Kentucky last week. She thrives on floor always, but in front of a home crowd, Groth is absolutely electric.
  • Sydney Schumaker on vault: A beautiful tucked Yurchenko 1.5 that scored a 9.9 marked Schumaker’s first time competing at Neville Arena last weekend. This vault could easily become a consistent high score for the Tigers this season. 

#12 Missouri @ #20 Georgia

Week 3 Matchup: Saturday, January 20 @ 2 p.m. ET | Missouri @ Georgia – Live Stats | Video (SECN)

Missouri

The Tigers dropped from No. 3 to No. 12 in the rankings this week after most teams added a second total to their average. Missouri’s average dropped by three-tenths and fell out of the 197 range after a tough vs. Alabama. The Tigers will have to get their beam and bars scores back in the 49 range if they want to easily beat the Bulldogs.

Routines to Watch:

  • Jocelyn Moore on vault: Moore scored a 10.0 on vault in 2023, so it is very possible that with a stick she could do the same thing this season. She was Missouri’s best vaulter last weekend with a 9.925, winning the event title.
  • Sienna Schreiber on beam: After two weeks of scoring a 9.925 or above on beam, it’s clear Schreiber’s composure and confidence on the event has been an amazing anchor for the Tigers.
  • Hannah Horton on floor: She’s only a freshman, but Horton sure does know how to work a floor routine and captivate fans. Horton has already scored two 9.9s on the event this season.

Georgia

Georgia dropped five spots in the rankings this week after being outscored by Arkansas last weekend, 197.150-196.350. The Bulldogs started the year with two season-ending injuries that are still affecting them. Most notably, they still haven’t competed with six gymnasts in the vault lineup. Georgia needs to get its vault score in the 49 range if the team is going to have a chance against Missouri.

Routines to watch: 

  • JaFree Scott on bars: This GymDog got a 10.0 at Georgia’s preview meet and last week earned a 9.95. Scott fights to hold every handstand and does a very high and gorgeous Ray. It would not be surprising to see Scott get her first official 10.0 on bars this season.
  • Lily Smith on floor: Smith has proven herself to be a strong freshman for the Bulldogs. She performs three passes in her floor routine that have gorgeous lines and extension throughout. Smith was also Georgia’s floor anchor last weekend, in just the second meet of her college career.