The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

2021 LSU Tigers

2021 LSU ROSTER
Seniors
Reagan Campbell
BB
FX
  • Competed BB, FX every meet in 2020
  • #1 returning score on BB (9.930)
  • #2 returning score on FX (9.875)
Bridget Dean
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed BB every meet in 2020
  • Competed UB in 9 of 11, FX in 7 of 11
  • #3 returning score on FX (9.815)
  • #4 returning score on BB (9.840)
Christina Desiderio
BB
FX
  • Competed 8 BBs, 5 FXs in 2020
  • #5 returning score on BB (9.830)
  • Avg 9.785 on FX
Sami Durante
VT
UB
BB
  • Competed UB, BB every meet in 2020
  • Competed VT in final 6 meets
  • #1 returning score on UB (9.890)
  • #3 returning score on BB (9.860)
  • #4 returning score on VT (9.755)
Sarah Edwards
VT
FX
  • Competed VT, FX in first 4 meets of 2020 before injury
  • Avg of 9.888 on VT
  • Avg of 9.783 for hit FX (also received a 2.000 for injury routine)
Olivia Gunter
FX
  • Competed first routines in 2020
  • Showed 6 FX for NQS of 9.705
Juniors
Rebecca D’Antonio
VT
  • Competed first routines in 2020
  • Showed 2 VTs, avg of 9.713
Sophomores
Kiya Johnson
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Competed AA in 9 of 11 meets in 2020
  • #1 returning score on FX (9.960), VT (9.925)
  • #2 returning score on BB (9.895), UB (9.875)
  • Finished season ranked #6 AA, #2 FX
Lexie
Nibbs
VT
  • Competed 4 VTs for LSU in 2020, avg 9.744
Maddie Rau
VT
FX
  • Competed 10 VTs in 2020 after joining in Jan.
  • #3 returning score on VT (9.785)
  • Showed 1 FX in final meet for 9.775
Kai Rivers
 
  • Out with injury
  • Competed VT, UB in 10 of 11 meets in 2020
  • Competed 3 BBs, avg 9.883
  • #2 returning score on VT (9.850), UB (9.840)
Kamryn Ryan
VT
  • Did not compete in first season
Alyona Shchennikova
VT
UB

BB
FX
  • Competed 8 UB, 2 BB in 2020
  • #5 returning score on UB (9.835)
  • Hit 1 for 2 on BB
Caitlin Smith
 
  • Did not compete in first season
Freshmen
Elena Arenas
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Georgia Elite
  • 8th AA, 2019 JO Nationals
  • 9th AA, 2017 P&G Championships
Sierra Ballard
VT
BB
FX
  • North Shore
  • 8th VT, 2019 JO Nationals
Chase Brock
VT
UB
FX
  • Gymnastix
  • 6th UB, 8th VT, 2018 JO Nationals
Haleigh Bryant
VT
UB
BB
FX
  • Everest
  • 1st AA, 2020 Nastia Cup
  • 2nd AA, 2019 JO Nationals
Olivia Dunne
VT
UB

BB
FX
  • ENA Paramus
  • 9th AA, 2017 junior P&G Championships
  • 11th AA, 2020 Nastia Cup

RANKING HISTORY
2020 – 6th
2019 – 2nd
2018 – 4th
2017 – 2nd
2016 – 2nd
2015 – 10th
2014 – 3rd
2013 – 5th
2012 – 9th
2011 – 20th
2010 – 9th

THE 2020 STORY
LSU won’t have been particularly pleased with how 2020 was going. Some critical graduations coupled with a rash of key injuries left holes in lineups that had to be filled with [gasp] 9.7s—a shape of number that LSU wouldn’t typically be forced to look at. Things began to improve after a slow start, but even late February saw a streak of low 197s that left LSU looking like a juicy upset prospect in a regional final.

DEPARTING ROUTINES
Kennedi Edney – VT, UB, BB, FX
Ruby Harrold – VT, UB, FX

INCOMING ROUTINES
Haleigh Bryant – VT, UB, BB, FX
Olivia Dunne – VT, UB, BB, FX
Elena Arenas – VT, UB, BB, FX
Chase Brock – VT, UB, FX
Sierra Ballard – VT, BB, FX

2021 PROJECTION
Improvement.

Certainly, LSU has lost important routines from last season, but a healthy 2021 roster presents a deeper collective with a greater number of competitive options than the team had to work with last year. This month, when LSU showed routines during…The Incident…we saw a team clearly farther along and more prepared than than the one we saw at Gymnastics 101 a year ago. I’d bet LSU is the only team in the entire NCAA that actually feels better about this season’s preparation than last year’s. In 2021, when teams have such wildly disparate preseasons (with some not even allowed in the gym or just getting back), LSU’s ability to prepare semi-normally will have an extreme influence on what we see during the actual season.

VAULT

2020 Event Ranking: 2

Lineup locks: Haleigh Bryant, Kiya Johnson, Sarah Edwards
Lineup options: Alyona Shchennikova, Elena Arenas, Chase Brock, Sierra Ballard, Olivia Dunne, Sami Durante, Maddie Rau, Kamryn Ryan, Lexie Nibbs, Rebecca D’Antonio

LSU is faced with the challenging prospect of replacing the lost Y1.5s from Edney and Harrold in this year’s lineup, but Haleigh Bryant will do much of that work herself. Her 10.0-start handspring pike 1/2 has the potential to become the best vault in college gymnastics (not hyperbole, the height and position are unimpeachable), and she will pair with Kiya Johnson at the end of the lineup for big scores. Having the Sarah Edwards Y1.5 back will also help pump up this lineup from the position it was in at the end of last season when she was out injured.

LSU is currently trying to get a Y1.5 out of Alyona Shchennikova, which is TBD, but the full she showed at 101 would be worthy of the lineup anyway, so expect her to add vault this year. There are some other possibilities for 10.0s—Maddie Rau entered the lineup last season for 9.7s, Jay said Kamryn Ryan was working on a 1.5 right before she almost hit her head on the table (so let’s all play it safe, maybe?), and Chase Brock spent some time with a 1.5 in JO that was occasionally amazing—but I still expect LSU to open the lineup with a couple Yurchenko fulls in 2021. There are plenty of options for that, among which Elena Arenas’ is probably the most compelling, though I also liked Sierra Ballard’s as a L10.

This increased depth of fulls means that several of the vaulters who had to come in last season to make up a lineup even though they weren’t going to get a huge score—Durante, Nibbs, D’Antonio—probably won’t be needed this year.

BARS

2020 Event Ranking: 5

Lineup locks: Haleigh Bryant, Sami Durante, Alyona Shchennikova, Olivia Dunne, Kiya Johnson
Lineup options: Elena Arenas, Bridget Dean, Chase Brock

LSU doesn’t bring back a whole lot on bars, with just four healthy bars routines on the returning roster. That means the team has the fewest options to play with on this event and is least able to afford a key injury—though there still shouldn’t be much trouble coming up with a competitive six that scores similarly to or slightly better than the lineup last season.

In terms of returning athletes, Sami Durante will now be called upon to lead the way as the elderstateswoman of the bars lineup. Kiya Johnson didn’t score lower than 9.800 all last season and will be back, and of course Alyona Shchennikova will be there with the potential for huge numbers—though it looks like also the same number of DLO heart attacks. (We’re fine with it if she just does a bare minimum dismount, signed everybody.)

For the new ones, Haleigh Bryant is on track to get huge bars scores, especially if her double front 1/2 out dismount keeps looking as it has. Olivia Dunne has lovely handstands that will help make up a deduction-minimal NCAA routine, and I’d go with Elena Arenas as the sixth worker since bars has always been my favorite event for her.

We may also see Bridget Dean here, who has competed plenty of bars routines before, and Chase Brock showed a routine at 101 that looks like an acceptable backup as needed.

BEAM

2020 Event Ranking: 6

Lineup locks: Reagan Campbell, Kiya Johnson, Christina Desiderio, Olivia Dunne, Sami Durante, Alyona Shchennikova
Lineup options: Bridget Dean, Elena Arenas, Haleigh Bryant, Sierra Ballard

LSU should have plenty of choices this season to keep up a competitive, high-scoring beam lineup—one that can entertain hopes of a higher event ranking than last season’s 6th. That said, the controversy over who gets in the lineup and who doesn’t could be rich because I have some very specific views as to what is the correct lineup and what are the incorrect lineups. The correct lineup goes Desiderio, Durante, Shchennikova, Dunne, Johnson, Campbell. I have spoken.

Olivia Dunne’s fantastic extension makes her the strongest beamer in the freshman class and the one I’d pick to break into the competition lineup. Sami Durante didn’t beam early in her career but proved her beam chops last season with that lovely aerial, and while Shchennikova’s routine might be an adventure given what we’ve seen so far, it’s a worthwhile adventure. Johnson and Campbell of course have tremendous scoring potential to lead the end of the lineup, and Christina Desiderio has turned into a very secure leadoff. Imagine the leaps in this six.

We’ll probably actually see Bridget Dean in the beam lineup every week, though the back leg deduction in her acro series means I’m keeping her in 7th place, maybe tied with Elena Arenas who should also hang around as a legitimate possibility. I was a bit surprised we didn’t see Bryant on beam at 101 because even though I’d rank beam as her clear #4 event, it’s still good.

FLOOR

2020 Event Ranking: 13

Lineup locks: Haleigh Bryant, Kiya Johnson
Lineup options: Sarah Edwards, Olivia Dunne, Christina Desiderio, Alyona Shchennikova, Elena Arenas, Sierra Ballard, Bridget Dean, Olivia Gunter, Reagan Campbell, Chase Brock, Maddie Rau

Things got a bit dicey with the floor team last season because injuries meant too many of the “I guess she could always go and get a 9.800” routines actually had to compete. This year, the team isn’t lacking for choice, so as long as there’s not some injury explosion or front 2/1-based COVID outbreak, the event ranking should improve.

Haleigh Bryant’s double front is exceptional, so just as on vault, she should pair with Kiya Johnson’s best-routine-on-the-team returning set to lead the scoring. But beyond those two, there’s not a lot of definitely in this lineup. It could go so many different ways. Ideally you want Desiderio in there, though it’s always been touch-and-go with her as to whether she’s able to perform her full difficulty and do it consistently enough to get in the six. Sarah Edwards has also been useful on floor in recent seasons with her front 2/1, and I’d image she’ll be called upon quite a bit. Olivia Dunne’s elegance is too compelling for her to be out of this lineup, and I like the option presented by the front 2/1 from Elena Arenas.

At the same time, Shchennikova is working to get into the floor lineup this season with her own front 2/1 that seems a legitimate possibility, Olivia Gunter has that double Arabian that will keep her on the list when she’s hitting it, we saw a real option from Sierra Ballard and her DLO at 101, Bridget Dean competed a bunch last season for 9.8s, and that’s not even the end of the people who competed last year.

There are plenty of routines. Plenty enough for LSU to be choosy because getting some new 9.9s out of these freshmen will be paramount in terms of improving those floor scores.

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