LSU 2017

Last night, LSU conducted its now-annual Gymnastics 101 (GET IT BECAUSE THIS IS A COLLEGE) to showcase the team’s best routines heading into the new season. It was…exactly what you would expect from a meet a month before the season begins. Sort of getting there. It did, however, provide a glorious opportunity for us to dig into the lineups and prospects for the upcoming season, so let’s go.

  • Competed VT, BB, FX every meet in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: VT – 9.905, BB – 9.870, FX – 9.865
Ashleigh Gnat
  • Team’s top routine & anchor on VT, BB, FX
  • Can contribute UB as needed
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.980, VT – 9.965, BB – 9.895
  • 2016 average: UB – 9.727
  • Weekly UB routine each of last two seasons
  • Provides FX option
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.875
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.517
  • Competed AA at nearly every meet in 2016, ranked 10th nationally
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.905, BB – 9.885, VT – 9.880, FX – 9.880
Lauren Li
  • Transfer from Penn State for sophomore year
  • Has not competed a routine for LSU
  • Constant important work on BB
  • Can provide VT, FX as needed, competed once on FX in 2016 for 9.950
  • 2016 RQS: BB – 9.890
  • 2016 average: VT – 9.768, FX – 9.950
Kylie Moran
  •  Has not competed a routine for LSU
  • Provided borderline lineup/backup routine on each event in 2016
  • Made final VT, BB lineups
  • 2016 RQS: VT – 9.835
  • 2016 average: UB – 9.663, BB – 9.603, FX – 9.050
Sarah Finnegan
  • Weekly UB, BB routines and frequent VT in 2016
  • Provides occasional option on FX
  • 2016 RQS: UB – 9.915, BB – 9.915, VT – 9.835
  • 2016 average: FX – 9.692
  • Near-weekly FX routines in 2016
  • 2016 RQS: FX – 9.885
  • Overcame Chronic Cincinnati Leg Death to make final UB lineup
  • Contributed a couple early seasion VT, BB routines
  • 2016 averages: UB – 9.869, VT – 9.750, BB – 9.725
  • Did not compete a routine in freshman year
  • Precision
  • 2016 JO Nationals 3rd AA
  • 2014-2015 JO National AA champion
Ruby Harrold
  • 2016 Olympian for GBR
  • 2013-2015 World Championship team member, UB finalist
Ashlyn Kirby
  • Shooting Stars NC
  • 2015 JO Nationals 10th AA

Recent History
2016 – 2nd
2015 – 10th
2014 – 3rd
2013 – 5th
2012 – 9th
2011 – 20th
2010 – 9th

They’re inching closer. The question for the LSU Tigers is not whether they can make Super Six in 2017. They can and better, otherwise they’ll have squandered a championship-level roster twice in three years. The question right now is whether LSU can improve on last season’s “Oh, so close” and actually take the title for the first time.

It’s a distinct possibility, one that will largely depend on just how good Oklahoma ends up being this year. Still, LSU has lost very few routines from last season, which provides an opportunity for improvement over last season’s 2nd-place side. If the Tigers can get just a little better on bars and a little more consistent on beam, there’s every reason to expect them to be able to challenge the Sooners.

Top returners – Gnat (9.965), Ewing (9.905), Hambrick (9.880)
Returning options – Finnegan (9.835), Cannamela (9.835), Macadaeg (9.790), Priessman (9.750)

It’s LSU and vault. It’s going to be fine. More than fine. Ashleigh Gnat and her 10-a-tron DTY will lead the scoring and make this lineup a contender for #1 again, and Hambrick will be just behind continuing her ascent up the vaulting pyramid. Hambrick showed only a full yesterday, but she’s also training a 1.5. It may not be necessary (unless it’s a reliable stick) if her full continues being this tremendous. The other chief returning vaulter, Sydney Ewing, sat her 1.5 at 101, which was just weird. Vault was actually quite poor through the first half of the lineup. Or as Bob Moore said, “They gotta whoa, and when they whoa, I told em, whoa and you go, so just go. And then whoa.”


Anyway, I’m not reading too much into it. With those three in place, it leaves a few spots open to be won by the most 9.9-looking vaulters, though not really because Kennedi Edney. Her 1.5 was huge and almost stuck at 101. (Did anyone else live for DD pretending like she couldn’t possibly understand where the deductions came from on that vault? Maybe she’s a better actress than I thought.) In addition to the big scores she’ll get this year, Edney is setting herself up as the heir to the vault throne for next season.

Ruby Harrold didn’t vault for us, though I’d expect to see her and the 1.5 she has been training. We’re also supposed to see McKenna Kelley and her new handspring front pike 1/2 once she’s fully healthy (shoulder bursitis), though we heard that last season as well and she vaulted zero times.

LSU is among the teams in the running for a lineup of six 10.0 starts, though I’m sure there will be plenty of times when we see some fulls. Lexie Priessman is frequently kept down to performing only a full because of legs and GAHHHH and sensible, which is actually a tough one for her because she has no idea how to control such a simple vault. She’s like, “Where’s my other twist? Oops, I’m flying.” Finnegan and Cannamela also scored quite well with fulls last year, so LSU has options that should allow them to get a majority of 9.9s and stay on track for 49.5s.

Top returners – Finnegan (9.910), Hambrick (9.905), Zamardi (9.875), Priessman (9.870)
Returning options – Gnat (9.727), Cannamela (9.662)

This is the questionable event for LSU. That doesn’t mean it’s bad; that just means it’s the reason LSU didn’t win the championship last year. If we’re judging LSU’s chances for a title in 2017, bars remains the most porous piece, and the team’s ability to come up with new high-scoring bars routines will be a critical factor.

So let’s talk about Our Ruby. Obviously, her Zuchold-Schleudern is my emergency contact, but I’m concerned about built-in deductions taking her out of the 9.9s, fears that were not allayed by 101, where she had a leg break on the toe Shap 1/2, cowboying on the double front, and a horizontal hop grip change in a routine that’s going for about 88 tenths of bonus for reasons like…fun.

It’s early, but LSU needs Harrold’s bars to be a starring routine, not just a lineup routine. 9.9s not 9.8s. They’ll also be looking to Edney to fill one of those Gnat/Savona slots (Gnat could certainly go as she did last year, but while she has improved, her routine is still a little too floppy for big scores). Edney shows a huge Hindorff and a very straight position on a DLO that will be crack for people who don’t like arched double lays.

The most likely lineup right now would see Harrold and Edney join the big four from last season: Finnegan, Hambrick, Zamardi, and Priessman. Finnegan is the class of the group with that ridiculous toe-point-fest of a Ray, though they’ll need her to boost consistency this season to get the most out of her set. Her 71% bars hit rate last year deflated the team score too often. The working order at 101 showed some possible lineup reorganization with Zamardi going to the first spot (and dropping the Khorkina, I believe) and Priessman in the sixth. Regardless of position, both will be back in the lineup and both will be capable of 9.9, the issue to watch for Zamardi being control of the dismount landing and the issue to watch for Priessman being a tendency to rush and get loose and floppy. The capability is not the problem.

Hambrick has also turned into a real thing these days on bars, an event that was a clear weak spot for her in JO. Don’t forget about Hambrick. Her routine often ends up being the cleanest one and her dismount the most stickable.

Top returners – Finnegan (9.915), Gnat (9.895), Macadaeg (9.890), Hambrick (9.885), Ewing (9.870)
Returning options – Priessman (9.725), Cannamela (9.650)

It’s going to be OK. Erin Macadaeg was in a boot during 101, but apparently her stress fracture is not going to compromise her contribution during the season and she’s currently expected to be back for January. Phew. Kathy, you can declench.

Beam Lineup of the Stars is alive and well, a group that is far too talented to accept all those 9.8s we saw at nationals last year. It’s routine after routine of impeccable work (except for the switch sides, all of which are awkward). This beam lineup shouldn’t really let Oklahoma or UCLA outpace it, ever. Finnegan, Macadaeg, and Hambrick continue to be elegant dreams, and Gnat and Ewing are the sturdy girders. All five have proven their 9.9 ability across years and have earned their continued places on this event.

How do we feel about that lineup order with Macadaeg and Hambrick in the first two spots, though? They can get real scores even in the early spots, but I do like the idea of Ewing leading off, which we saw at 101. You know how I love my difficulty-builds-to-cleanliness lineup orders.

One goal for this year compared to last year will be to solidify that nebulous third spot. Whether it was Cannamela or Gauthier competing, it never settled in 2016. For that, I’m looking to Harrold and Priessman to fill out a slate of seven very positive, very usable options. Priessman still has some beam PTSD that looms over her every move, but her ability should be worth a spot in the lineup anyway. Cannamela and Edney both performed at the 101 as viable options as well, though they looked a little tightish and 9.800ish and maybe not best-case-scenario options. Edney does have some serious amplitude, but also some back leg.

Top returners – Gnat (9.980), Hambrick (9.880), Kelley (9.880), Ewing (9.865)
Returning options – Macadaeg (9.950), Finnegan (9.692), Zamardi (9.517), Cannamela (9.050)

LSU is always excellent on floor, though this is the one event where there will be a serious void without Savona’s routine. Her floor was such a reliable piece, and while LSU has plenty of power on this roster, someone else will need to emerge who can show a big-tumbling routine that also scores 9.850+ every single week. That’s a question when we get into talking about using undeniably appealing Priessman, Finnegan, Zamardi routines: copy-paste landings. Is that tumbling exactly the same every week? Or are you going to get a 9.900 one week and a 9.725 the next?

As on vault, Gnat‘s 10 ability is the most important piece of the lineup, and Hambrick increasingly looks like the best nominee for second-in-command with that super-high landing position on her DLO. (Hambrick was by far LSU’s best gymnast at 101 through 3.5 events, then clearly ran out of gas during that floor routine. A month to get the endurance.) Kelley will presumably be the third of the DLO triplets, with control of her landings the serious piece they’ll have to work on to make sure she doesn’t drop into the lower 9.8s. Ewing and her front 2/1 have become a staple in that leadoff spot for 9.850s, a useful constant though not a BIG FAT LSU FLOOR ROUTINE.

Neither Harrold nor Edney competed floor at 101, though I hope to see both of them in the lineup. Harrold has the tumbling ability and the attention to performance, and Edney brings that same power from vault into her floor work. If not those two, we start looking at that Priessman, Finnegan, Zamardi group, who did compete at 101.

For Priessman, floor has always been her most impressive event. Of course you want her in this lineup. In a perfect world, she’d be the floor anchor. The only thing holding her back will be training time related to her injury history. Can she consistently land passes? Can she get through a whole year without injury? We hope. It’s a similar story for Finnegan, although floor is her least important event. They’re not going to throw the big tumbling with her these days, so is it better to focus on the other three events? Of the whole gang, I’d like to see Zamardi the most (her choreography is also the best of the bunch this year, which is tending a little too SEC-electro-remix cliche for me), that is if she can finally get consistency on her double Arabian.

Oh, and I forgot about Macadaeg again, who got that random 9.950 last year and then never competed floor again. It’s not a matter of options. They exist. The trick will be balancing potential with landing consistency and medical history so that they know they’re getting a 49.4-49.5 every meet before the rotation even begins.

We’ll see big scores from LSU this year. We’ll see wins and wins and wins and 198s, and we’ll spend 3.5 months talking about whether this is the year. That’s a given. When I look at LSU’s roster, there are places where I say, yes, that’s a score no other school has. It’s clear how LSU wins a championship. It’s by recording the top total on vault, finally meeting potential on beam and marrying elegance with confidence instead of wobbling at the critical moment, keeping former elites healthy enough to do floor when it matters because the scores are there to be taken, and getting a new big UB score (from Harrold) that keeps bars just close enough to allow the power events to do the talking. What isn’t clear is whether any of that will be real.

3 thoughts on “LSU 2017”

  1. Perhaps Kennedi Edney will vault (pun intended) LSU to a national title – maybe let her 1.5 anchor after Gnat’s DTY 10-stick and Edney can care on the family tradition (think B-ball and UCLA).

  2. LSU really needs more consistent contributions from the underclassmen. Finnegan, Priessman, and Kelley need to be 100% dialed on their shit this year. Not injured, or missing a half dozen Ray releases, or flying out of bounds. Gnat and Hambrick are the BEST kind of NCAA gymnasts, but the supporting cast needs to get on their level.

    For the frosh, Edney has so much potential. I think she can give them a boost on bars, as her routine was very big and very clean. Which is good because Harrold’s routine was an NCAA nightmare. So many form breaks and badly missed handstands. I’m all for keeping her signature move, but that set was gross.

    I really hope Finnegan’s FX sees the light of day – her double lay was beautiful. Same for Zamardi.

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