‘Healthy’ Sarie Morrison set for gymnastics championships

After six ankle surgeries, count ’em six, LSU gymnast Sarie Morrison knows she’ll never be the solid all-arounder she used to be for the Tigers.

Years of pounding and the wear and tear that come with it on both ankles may have cut down on her ability to be a four-event threat, but it certainly hasn’t diminished her ability to throw up big scores on a consistent basis.

Two years after bursting onto the scene as one of LSU’s top gymnasts, Morrison has reached the end of her junior season looking to do anything she has to in do order to leave her mark on the program — even if it’s in just two events.

Despite multiple dates with a surgeon, the first of which came when she was a junior in high school in Dallas, Morrison feels as good as she can possibly feel going into the NCAA Championships starting Friday in Los Angeles.

“I’m pretty healthy, for me, right now,” a smiling Morrison said last week as the fifth-ranked Tigers prepared for the national semifinals, which they hope will propel them to a berth in the Super Six Finals on Saturday. “I’m probably never going to be 100 percent again.”

That means competing only in the vault and uneven bars and saying goodbye to the balance beam and floor exercise.

In this case, LSU coach D-D Breaux said, having half a Morrison is better than having none at all.

“She’s probably as close to 100 percent physically as she’s going to get,” said Breaux. “The thing that sets her aside is her commitment to the sport and her commitment to the team. It’s not about individual performance for her.”

It could, however, easily be about performance for Morrison.

After a solid first season in which she made a name for herself as a member of the All-SEC Freshman Team, Morrison has been beset by a series of ankle problems that began in high school.

A total reconstruction of the ankle in her junior year of high school was followed by routine cleanout procedures and bone spurs. If that wasn’t enough, Morrison capped her sophomore season at LSU with a broken foot.

Still, she somehow managed to earn second-team All-American honors on bars — the only event she was able to participate in at the NCAA Championships.

This season, Morrison is focusing only on the vault and bars because those two don’t put as much pressure on her ankles.

“On bars, you only have to worry about the landing and the vault is kind of quick and painless,” she said. “They’re my two favorite events anyway.”

It certainly has shown as she posted the first perfect 10 of her LSU career on vault in a Feb. 15 meet against Arkansas. She also recorded a season’s-best 9.95 on bars and on April 6 scored a 9.90 to win bars at the NCAA Regional.

“I stuck that vault and got a 10,” Morrison said of the meet with Arkansas. “It was a sigh of relief and a great accomplishment for me. It’s such a rewarding feeling to be out there celebrating and having all your teammates behind you cheering.”

That’s about as far as Morrison, who ranks eighth nationally on bars with a 9.915 regional qualifying score, will go in talking about her individual achievements.

Going into the NCAA Championships, she has competed in 21 events counting vault and bars this season and has scored at least a 9.90 on 13.

That puts her second on the team behind sophomore Rheagan Courville, who’s produced 26 scores of 9.90 or better while competing in four events each week.

There are two reasons for it, Morrison said.

“I’ve been healthy the whole year, so it’s been pretty nice,” she said, “and the coaching staff has done a good job reducing the number of routines I’ve done.

“I’m definitely happy … it’s been my most exciting year so far,” Morrison added. “But the thing is I couldn’t have come back without my teammates and coaches. They’ve supported me through all these surgeries, so we’re really all committed as a team and dedicated.”