ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- LSU started its performance in the 2017 Women’s National Collegiate Gymnastics Championships in incredible fashion Friday evening at the Chaifetz Arena.
After getting a bye in the first rotation, the Tigers came out on fire in floor exercise.
In fact, the Tigers did something they have never accomplished in school history. They scored a floor exercise record of 49.7125. It was the perfect way for LSU to put itself in position to reach Saturday’s Super Six.
LSU carried that momentum through the other three events and finished first in the second session semifinals with a score of 198.2750, the highest ever in the NCAA Championships.
“I felt tonight was a really great experience for our entire team,” said LSU senior Ashleigh Gnat. “Every girl went out there and gave 100 percent and put their heart in every routine. It was the entire lineup that made it the way it was. The floor was an amazing way to start off. We know what our potential is. Every single girl can post a high score. Today, we let loose and we went out there and had a great time.”
Joining LSU in the Super Six are Florida, which scored 197.8125 for second and Alabama, which placed third with a score of 197.6000.
LSU scored 49.5625 in the vault, 49.4125 in the uneven parallel bars and 49.5875 on the balance beam. LSU coach D-D Breaux said they didn’t have a score in mind before the meet.
“What you need to do is beat three people,” she said. “You need to get your momentum going and keep your enthusiasm and energy going. You got to be in the top three. We will regroup, cold tub, regroup and come in here tomorrow and go at it and have fun. It is all about having a great time and bringing the glory back to your university.”
It was also a special evening for Florida junior Alex McMurtry. She finished first in the all-around with a score of 39.8125. She also finished tied for first in the uneven parallel bars, second on the vault and tied for third on the balance beam and floor.
Before the season started, Florida coach Jenny Rowland had a conversation with McMurty about being the all-around national champion.
“I asked her what her goals were,” Rowland said. “She had goals, but I had bigger goals in mind. I said what do you think about being a national champion. She said, ‘Í think it would be very cool.’ I said let's work towards that because I really think it is attainable. Alex, whatever she does, she does 110 percent, in the gym, out of the gym, as a Florida student. She has a huge heart and will. She carries the team on her shoulders.”
Inspired by those words, McMurtry put in the work throughout the season that culminated with a national title.
“I want to thank the coaches for actually setting that goal for me,” McMurtry said. “I didn’t think it was really possible or in my future, but I had that goal and worked towards it all season. I am really happy I was able to put it together in all four events.”
As it turned out, it was a great night for the SEC, sending three teams to the Super Six. Fans from LSU, Alabama and Florida cheered enthusiastically as did the fans from Nebraska, Michigan and Georgia.
“I am so proud we have three teams from the SEC qualifying because we do have one amazing conference,” said Alabama coach Dana Duckworth. “Our team, specifically, has really been and up and down, inside-out season. We have dealt with so many injuries. There comes a moment where you say what is the next challenge. Every team that was here tonight has their own story to tell. To be able to have ESPN cover us live is such a testament to college gymnastics and where we have come and where we are today.”