LSU hands Arkansas gymnastics team first loss

Arkansas gymnast Frankie Price competes on the vault, Friday, Feb. 2. 2024, during an NCAA gymnastics meet against LSU at the Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La. (Michael Johnson/The Advocate)

The Arkansas Razorbacks’ early-season gymnastics bounce hit a snag with their least consistent meet of the season matched against a powerhouse showing from No. 5 LSU before an announced crowd of 12,538 at the Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge on Friday night.

The No. 7 Razorbacks had to count a fall for the first time while LSU was excelling with a program-record score for a 198.475 to 196.2 victory, giving LSU Coach Jay Clark his 100th career win.

LSU’s Haleigh Bryant posted a 10 on her floor exercise, which was announced with an explosive cheer while Arkansas freshman Priscilla Park was in the midst of a personal-best 9.975 on the balance beam, which tied LSU freshman Konnor McClain for the event title. 

Bryant, who notched the 88th perfect 10 ever for LSU and fourth of the season, also won the vault and the all-around to take her career titles total to 69.

The loss prevented Arkansas (2-1-1, 2-1-1 SEC) from completing its first four weeks of a season unbeaten for the first time in school history. The Razorbacks fell behind by having to count a fall on the uneven bars out of the gate.

“Obviously it wasn’t the start we wanted,” fifth-year Arkansas Coach Jordyn Wieber said. “We really just challenged them to reset after that first event and I felt they did a really good job with that.

“It felt like we kind of built on each event, from vault to floor to beam, and to finish with a bang on beam was awesome. Really proud of their comeback tonight. I think we learned a lot. This was a really tough environment and really distracting.”

LSU (5-2, 2-1) had program-best and season-high performances all over the score sheet. The Tigers, who now have 20 scores of 198 or better, exceeded their previous-high team total, which had been 198.375 in a duel meet win over Minnesota on March 6, 2015.

Bryant soared to a 39.825 to win the all-around title over teammate Kiya Johnson’s 39.675, while Park was turning in a personal-best 39.425 to take third.

“Oh my gosh, just way to handle the pressure in so many ways,” Wieber said of Park’s unflappable beam routine in the anchor spot. “She really did what we see from her every day in practice. I think we’ve been waiting for that breakthrough routine from Priscilla and we saw that tonight. So I’m really proud of her, and to handle the booing and the chanting of the scores from floor.”

While LSU had to count only three scores lower than 9.9 on the night, the Razorbacks mustered just six 9.9s or better out of their 20 counting scores, none on the vault or uneven bars.

Arkansas managed to finish strong with a season-high 49.45 on the balance beam but even that could not hang with LSU’s closing 49.775 on the floor, tying a program-best.

The Razorbacks struggled on the uneven bars, with falls by mainstays Jensen Scalzo and Maddie Jones that resulted in a 48.175. That marked the first sub-49.0 score on any event for Arkansas this season and it set them more than a full point behind as LSU tied its season-high with a 49.525 on the vault.

Bryant won the event with a 9.975 with only a mini hop back on her landing, while Amari Drayton and Johnson scored 9.9.

LSU extended its lead to 1.7 points at the halfway mark with a 49.525 on the uneven bars, paced by Savannah Schoenherr’s event-best 9.95. The Tigers led 99.075 to 97.375 through two rotations.

Arkansas had a 49.2 on the vault with 9.875s from sophomores Frankie Price and Lauren Williams leading the way.

LSU had a season-high 49.625 on the balance beam on which no gymnast scored lower than 9.9. McClain led the way with a 9.975 and Bryant went 9.5 to finish second on the event. Williams notched a 9.925 on the floor exercise to tie for fourth, while teammates Jones and Price scored 9.9s.