LSU gymnastics team focused for NCAA Regional

With most of their classmates on spring break this week, it would’ve been rather easy for the members of the LSU gymnastics team to have their minds on some faraway place.

If they did, D-D Breaux would certainly detect it.

Breaux has been around long enough to tell when her team is focused and when it’s not, which hasn’t happened a lot, and she said the Tigers had it this week as they prepared for Saturday’s NCAA Regional in Columbus, Ohio.

Following up on its third-place effort in the Southeastern Conference Championships two weeks ago, seventh-ranked LSU must finish first or second in the regional, which begins at 5 p.m., to qualify for the NCAA Championships to be held April 19-21 in Los Angeles.

LSU, which is seeded second with a regional qualifying score of 197.180, will face sixth-ranked UCLA along with No. 18 Arizona, No. 20 Ohio State, No. 24 Central Michigan and North Carolina State.

Even though they’re favored to grab one of the two berths available for nationals, the Tigers aren’t taking anything for granted.

“Look at them,,” Breaux said as athletes continued to work on their routines long after practice ended Wednesday. “They’re not thinking about the beach; they’ve been right here focused on this.

“When we got back from SECs, it was like, ‘We need to get better … we need to get better,’” she said. “When your best kids are leading that message, it uplifts everybody.”

That’s not so easy to do, Breaux said.

“It’s very hard to do, especially when a team isn’t goal-oriented and they don’t have that focus,” she said. “You have to stay on top of them and make sure they stay on the task. We haven’t had to do that this week.”

Breaux is excited about the opportunity for the Lady Tigers, who are the highest No. 2-seeded team in six regionals being held across the country.

LSU posted a score of 197.700, the third-highest total in program history, in finishing behind Florida (198.000) and Alabama (197.800) at the SEC meet.

SEC Gymnast of the Year Rheagan Courville, who tied for the all-around title with a personal-best score of 39.750, Sarie Morrison and Lloimincia Hall provide most of the power in the lineup for the Lady Tigers.

Courville produced the first 10.0 of her career in the vault en route to a share of the all-around crown. Hall has a pair of 10.0s on floor exercise this season and Morrison, who is also a solid bars performer, has a 10.0 on vault.

Thanks in part to them, the Lady Tigers lead the nation on vault and are fifth on floor. They’re also 11th on bars and 12th on beam going to regionals.

As a team, LSU is less than seven-tenths of a point behind top-ranked Florida, whom the Lady Tigers defeated in a dual meet in January, and are just four-tenths behind No. 2 Oklahoma.

“We had a great team effort at the SEC meet, but this week is huge,” Breaux said. “Some positive things happened at the SEC Championships, and we’ve kind of picked it up from there and continued to move it up and forward. So we’re not standing in the same spot.

“We want to win regionals, that’s our ultimate goal. We think we have the talent to do it, but consistency is going to win.”