By Roderick Wilbon, Sports Editor
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) 2018 Women’s Gymnastics Championship took place March 24 at the Chaifetz Arena. The SEC is one of the most competitive conferences in collegiate sports. In gymnastics, this fact is no different. For nearly the last 10 years, an SEC team has been the Champion or runner-up. On this day, the top eight ranked schools in the SEC faced off to see who would compete in the NCAA Gymnastics Tournament.
The eight teams were Mizzou in eighth, Georgia in seventh, Auburn in sixth, Arkansas in fifth, Kentucky in fourth, Alabama in third, Florida in second, and LSU in first. The teams competed in the four different stages: vault, bars, beams, and floor.
In the first session, the bottom four teams competed against one another. It was fierce competition with the teams neck and neck. There were some mistakes by all the teams, and some of the routines were not up to the highest degree of difficulty. Arkansas wound up taking the session one meet with a overall score of 196.425. Mizzou did rank up to take the third spot meaning a seventh place finish overall with a 196.100.
During the intermission, LSU was presented with the SEC regular season trophy. The number one school in the SEC in the regular season had a small celebration, knowing that a tough meet was ahead of them. Session two began shortly after with the top four schools competing.
Session two was tough with very few mistakes and very advanced, difficult routines. Alex McMurtry of Florida, the fan favorite and last year’s SEC Gymnast of the Year, came in on a mission. Most thought that LSU would run away with the competition, but after the second rotation, with help from McMurtry and teammate Alyssa Baumann, Florida was in the lead going into the last two stages. McMurtry scored very high on the Vault with 9.97, Bars with 9.95 and 9.95 Beam. Baumann herself scored the highest score of the competition on the beam.
LSU was certainly keeping pace, not blowing the stages out of the water but still putting up respectable scores. The floor stage for Florida took a turn for the worse though. Two of the gymnast didn’t make their landing on their summersault. Uncharacteristically, one of them was McMurtry and it shocked everyone. Those two penalties on a score will take anyone out, and it certainly forced Florida to fall to second place with only one stage left.
LSU stayed consistent, poised, and strong. They only took the all-around event for highest scorer with Sarah Finnegan with an overall score of 39.500. After the individual gymnasts were awarded, LSU hoisted the SEC 2018 Gymnastics Championship trophy. It was a big-time celebration with tons of confetti and exuberance.
Next up is regionals for gymnastics all over the country. Regionals will determine who competes in the NCAA Gymnastics Championship. I bet we will see some familiar teams from the SEC in the NCAA 2018 Women’s Gymnastics Championships April 20-21. It will be held right back here in St. Louis at the Chaifetz Arena.