SEC Gymnastics Week 3 Recap: A weekend of bests, LSU vaults to the top

By Elizabeth Hunter | January 24, 2024
LSU's Kiya Johnson at the 2022 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships.
© Amy Sanderson/Gymnastics Now

Wow! What a crazy weekend of matchups for SEC gymnastics. Three gymnasts scored perfect 10s, Alabama and Arkansas tied as the Razorbacks set a new program record, LSU passed 198, and that’s just the start of all the excitement.

Read on for an in-depth recap of Week 3 of SEC gymnastics.

#4 Arkansas @ #3 Alabama

Final score: Alabama: 197.525 – Arkansas: 197.525 (TIE)

Alabama

On Friday, the Crimson Tide bettered its team score for the third consecutive meet and also had season-high event scores on vault (49.35), bars (49.6), and beam (49.2). Alabama had a claim to all the event titles Friday night but did not have a gymnast compete in the all-around. 

Alabama’s vault rotation had two new gymnasts in the lineup: Shania Adams (9.85) and Makarri Doggette (9.825). Alabama head coach Ashley Johnston said that freshman Jamison Sears was supposed to be the vault anchor, but during warmups they decided to put Adams in. Luisa Blanco had to redo her vault after mistiming her steps, but ended up tying for the vault title with a 9.925. 

The Tide excelled on bars, with the lowest counted score being a 9.9. Doggette claimed the bars title with a 9.95. In the third rotation, Ella Burgess tied her career-best 9.95 on beam, but Alabama couldn’t stay ahead of Arkansas. The meet came down to the final routine on floor by junior Lilly Hudson. Hudson scored a season-high 9.95 to perfectly tie the team’s scores at 197.525. 

Coach Johnston also mentioned that the lineup changes, specifically on vault and floor, were due to the fact that Gabby Gladieux, Blanco, and Adams needed some extra time this week to get back to full health.

Arkansas

Arkansas set a new program record against the Tide after posting the highest team score in history (197.525). The Gymbacks haven’t beat the Tide since 2017, but they kept Alabama on their toes, fighting for every tenth on Friday. 

Freshman Priscilla Park was the only all-arounder for both teams, and she ended the night with a 38.525. Park put up the Razorbacks’ highest-scoring bars routine with a 9.925. On vault, Leah Smith (Yurchenko full) and Lauren Williams (Yurchenko 1.5) both posted huge 9.925 vaults to finish in a three-way tie for the event title. 

Floor saw Arkansas counting nothing lower than a 9.85, including highs of 9.925 from Smith and 9.9 from Maddie Jones. The Razorbacks faced pressure heading to beam as they sat just slightly ahead of Alabama. Junior Kalyxta Gamiao scored a 9.925 as the beam leadoff and graduate transfer Sirena Linton got her beam redemption, scoring a 9.9, which secured the new program high final score.

#6 Kentucky @ #8 LSU

Final score: LSU: 198.125 – Kentucky: 197.600

LSU

It wasn’t one but TWO perfect 10s for LSU this weekend against Kentucky. The Tigers scored a whopping 198.125 – becoming the second team in the country to do so this year – and not only had two gymnasts with perfect scores but had 11 other routines in the 9.9-or-above range.

LSU scored a season-high on vault (49.525) with the help of a near-perfect 9.975 from Haleigh Bryant and a 9.925 from Savannah Schoenherr. The Tigers had another electric bars rotation (49.45), with Schoenherr scoring a 9.925 and Bryant, already the school’s all-time 10 leader, adding another 10.0 to the record books.

After having rough beam rotations the last two meets, LSU finally found its groove on the event. Sophomore Annie Beard redeemed herself with a 9.875 after a fall in Week 2, and Bryant, Kiya Johnson, and Sierra Ballard all scored 9.9. 

LSU lit up the floor, scoring the nation’s highest floor score this season (49.725). The lowest counted score was freshman Amari Drayton’s 9.9, and freshman Konnor McClain made her floor debut, scoring a 9.925. Johnson scored LSU’s second 10.0 of the night in the anchor spot against the same team and on the same event that she tore her Achilles a little over a year ago. 

Kentucky

Even though the Wildcats fell to LSU in Baton Rouge, the meet was still a stepping stone in the right direction for Kentucky. The team has improved their final score each week and finished off Friday with a solid 197.6. 

The Wildcats started the night on bars, and freshman leadoff Delaynee Rodriguez earned a new career best with a 9.9. Freshman Cecily Rizo made her bars debut and scored a 9.825, and Raena Worley was the top scorer with a 9.975. Kentucky then headed to vault where Arianna Patterson scored a 9.925 for her beautiful front handspring pike half.

Floor was Kentucky’s highest event total for the night (49.475) and saw no score below a 9.85. Hailey Davis scored a 9.9, and freshman Creslyn Brose used her beautiful passes and stage presence to get her a 9.925. Worley scored a 9.95 on the event for the second consecutive week. 

The Wildcats’ lowest score of the night came on beam (49.275), but Isabella Magnelli anchored with a 9.9 and Raena Worley won the beam title with a 9.925 to keep the team afloat. 

#7 Florida @ #12 Auburn

Final score: Florida: 197.325 – Auburn: 197.025

Florida

Florida snagged its first SEC victory on Friday, scoring a 197.325 against Auburn. Junior Leanne Wong won the all-around with a 39.625 and claimed the bars and floor titles.

The Gators started on bars, scoring a season-high 49.4. Wong scored a 9.95 and freshman Anya Pilgrim scored a 9.9 to clinch the meet’s top two spots on the event. Freshman Gabby Disidore scored a new career-best 9.875. Florida then went to vault, where Pilgrim and Bri Edwards led the rotation with 9.875s. This was a new career best for the junior Edwards. 

Florida put up its best event total in the third rotation on floor (49.475). Three new Gators were added to the floor lineup for the first time this season: Leanne Wong (9.95), Ellie Lazzari (9.85), and Sloane Blakely (9.825). This was Lazzari’s first floor performance since injuring her Achilles while warming up floor at Georgia in January of 2022. Victoria Nguyen scored a 9.9, and Lori Brubach also scored a new career-best 9.9. 

The Gators put up a 49.225 on beam, with no gymnast scoring above a 9.875.

Auburn

The Tigers scored a 197.025 for the second consecutive meet and fell to the Gators by three-tenths. We saw Auburn head coach Jeff Graba try out different people in the bars and beam lineups.

Freshman Emma Grace Boyd made her Auburn debut as the leadoff on bars, scoring a 9.775, and freshman Paige Zancan made her Neville Arena debut on beam with a 9.825.

“I was really proud of them,” Cassie Stevens said (referring to Zancan and Boyd’s routines). “They looked really confident out there. They were attacking it, and that’s what you want from someone who’s new.”

Auburn had two gymnasts claim event titles: Sophia Groth won vault with her leadoff 9.9, and Gabby McLaughlin claimed the beam title with an impressive season-high 9.95 in the anchor position. 

The Tigers ended the meet with a lively floor rotation (49.45) that saw four gymnasts score a 9.9 or above. Groth and leadoff Aria Brusch both put up 9.9s. McLaughlin and Stevens both scored career-high 9.925 routines. Graba said that he believes the Tigers are a 49.5 team on floor, but getting an earlier start on the other three events will be the secret to Auburn’s success. 

#12 Missouri @ #20 Georgia

Final score: Missouri: 197.400 – Georgia 197.050

Missouri

After only scoring a 196.475 and falling to Alabama last weekend, the Tigers bounced back stronger with a 197.400 and left Athens securing their fourth consecutive dual meet win over the Bulldogs. Missouri recorded at least one 9.9 on every event for the first time since the 2023 SEC Championship.

Missouri started off on the right foot on bars, with Mara Titarsolej producing a 9.975 routine. This score now stands as the best bars score in Mizzou gymnastics history. Freshman Rayna Light also made her bars debut and scored a 9.8.

The vault rotation put the Tigers further ahead of the Bulldogs as anchor Jocelyn Moore produced a gorgeous Yurchenko 1.5 and scored a 9.95 to claim the vault title. Missouri posted an impressive floor rotation (49.425) and had three gymnasts score a 9.9: Kennedy Griffin, Sienna Schreiber, and Moore.

The Tigers finished off a strong meet on beam (49.4), where anchor and all-around winner (39.525) Schreiber scored a stunning 9.975 to win the beam title. Celestine scored a career-best 9.925 on beam. She now has a total of 30 9.9-or-above routines in her collegiate career. 

Georgia

The Bulldogs may not have won the meet, but it was a groundbreaking weekend for them as they finally crossed the 197 threshold and freshman Lily Smith scored Georgia’s first 10.0 of the season. She’s also the first freshman to score a 10.0 since 2001.

Smith had a stellar meet after scoring a 10.0 on bars and claiming the event title. On beam, she scored a 9.95, and then she won the floor title after scoring a 9.925.

Georgia was finally able to put up six athletes in the vault lineup and gymnastics fans were shocked to see JaFree Scott fill that hole. Scott competed a Yurchenko full and scored a 9.825.

“She was originally working on the Yurchenko half-on front pike vault this summer, and we were just going to see where we got with it,” UGA head coach Courtney Kupets-Carter said after the meet. “We weren’t necessarily going to put her in vault, and then we went down to five athletes. We were like, well, would a full be a little quicker for her? She’s done a lot of different vaults in her career, so we started playing with the layout and the full and that was probably only two weeks ago and she pulled herself together.”

The Bulldogs earned season highs on vault (49.025), beam (49.35), and floor (49.425) in the effort. On beam, the mark was helped tremendously by Smith’s 9.95 and three 9.875s. The GymDogs wrapped up the meet on floor with a 49.425. Ashlyn LaClair and Sidney Fitzgerald both earned career-high scores of 9.875 and 9.9, respectively. Freshman all-arounder Ady Wahl also marked a career-best 9.9 routine.