Coach D-D Breaux is heading into her 42nd season at LSU, but there is just as much excitement now as there was in 1978.
The LSU gymnastics team is holding its annual Gym 101 showcase exhibition on Monday, Dec. 10, at 6:30 p.m. to show fans what they can look forward to during the 2019 season.
"We use it as a warm up," Breaux said. "We're able to put our equipment in there. It's the only time we have the opportunity to be in the PMAC and get on the equipment and the kids can feel what it's like to be in there."
Breaux also uses Gym 101 as an educational opportunity for the fans to learn and understand how the sport works.
"We want our season tickets holders to come and get to know this team," Breaux said. "We give a little '101' and education about it. Like this routine is worth that and this is really good, it might score this. We talk about deductions or pluses or what goes on at a gymnastics meet."
Breaux said she's not worried about the scoring at Gym 101 — the team will have an extra intrasquad on Sunday — but she wants her team to get used to the area and the atmosphere of the PMAC.
"It's an opportunity for us to test our lineup to see the best six or seven kids that we have," Breaux said. "We put pressure on them and see who competes well under pressure."
Returning from injury
Though the Tigers spent most of the 2018 season healthy, multiple gymnasts had surgery in the offseason for various injuries.
"There a difference between taking a landing [in the PMAC] and in our practice gym — it's huge," Breaux said. "Someone like [senior all-arounder] McKenna Kelley, who didn't compete last year, we want to get her every opportunity we can to get her in the PMAC and really kick the rust off."
Breaux said Kelley is at about 92 percent as she returns from a torn Achilles tendon that caused her to miss all of the 2018 season. That other 8 percent, Breaux explained, is the confidence Kelley needs to execute in a live meet.
Fellow senior all-arounder Lexie Priessman had surgery in the offseason but is coming back at full strength in 2019. Priessman is currently training on floor, vault and bars where she averaged 9.856, 9.853 and 9.916 in 2018.
Breaux said that Priessman, like Kelley, still has a little way to go before she's at 100 percent, but she's eager and excited for the season to start.
Sophomore class sees expanded roles
Last year's freshman class had seven gymnasts come in and add production where they were needed — especially Christina Desiderio and Sarah Edwards — but multiple sophomores will be called to step up in 2019.
Desiderio started every meet on beam her freshman year averaging 9.832, and made 10 appearances on the floor for a 9.816 average. Breaux emphasizes the need to get Desiderio in more vaulting lineups.
"It's a long, tedious process,” Breaux said. "It's so many skills, so many drills and so much has to go into growing and getting those skills back."
Edwards vaulted in all but one meet for a 9.79 average, and added nine appearances on the floor for a 9.778 average.
Sophomore all-arounder Reagan Campbell competed in all but one meet on beam for the Tigers, averaging 9.753 with a high a 9.925.
"Reagan Campbell gave us fabulous beam," Breaux said. "Right now she's training floor. She's training all the events, but I would like very much to get her in on floor."
Sami Durante, like Campbell, only contributed on one event in 2018 (bars), but Breaux expects her to be a mainstay in LSU's beam lineup with the losses of Myia Hambrick and Erin Macadaeg.
"We're counting on that large freshman class moving forward," Breaux said.
Seniors look to lead a reloaded team
The 2019 senior class returns four All-Americans, inlcuding Sarah Finnegan and Julianna Cannamela, along with Priessman and Kelley.
"We've got a fabulous senior class," Breaux said. "I think that how this class goes is how this team is going to proceed forward.
All-American junior Kennedi Edney also brings well-rounded experience for LSU on all four events.
"Some of these kids that are coming in from last year are really, really good, so we're all excited," Breaux said.