Blanco and Hudson perfect scores shine in gymnastics loss to LSU

Abby McCreary, Assistant Sports Editor

First it was sophomore Lilly Hudson on beam. Then LSU gymnast Aleah Finnegan on floor. Senior Luisa Blanco, the anchor of the Alabama gymnastics beam rotation, finished it off: three back-to-back perfect scores.   

“That feeling is indescribable,” Hudson said. “I will never forget that. To go back-to-back with Lu [Luisa Blanco], that was awesome and just shows what this team is made of.” 

The top-ten matchup between the No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide and the No. 8 Louisiana State University Tigers ended with a total of four perfect scores (the fourth being Tiger Haleigh Bryant’s vault routine), meaning the competitors received 10s from both judges, and five other routines received 10s from just one judge. 

In other words, a hard-fought battle unfolded in Coleman Coliseum Friday night — a battle which the Tigers won by .050.  

A vocal crowd made its disapproval known after seeing several judges’ decisions that added to the narrow Alabama loss, but head coach Ashley Johnston said the scores are opportunities to improve.  

“It’s close meets like this that really fuel us for what we need to get back in the gym and work for,” Johnston said. “Scoring is something outside of our control. While we may have questions about it, we have to work to be undeniable. If there’s a score that we weren’t as pleased with, it means we left something out there on the table.” 

Although the third rotation saw the back-to-back perfect scores, the first half of the meet left a lot to be desired. Several tumbles, stumbles and falls on the vault and bars plagued both sides of the gym, resulting in a slow start. 

“We started a little bit small, kind of cautious,” Johnston said. “That was where we gave the most away. That’s the lesson in all this, that we have to start strong and go after it from the first vault and first bar routine and not hold back at all.” 

By the third rotation, competition had certainly heated up. Following the back-to-back perfect scores, the fourth rotation had the highest energy, but also the highest stakes as Alabama trailed by .075. 

“We always want to go into four on a high,” senior Makarri Doggette said. “Going into floor, it definitely helps to have that energy flowing and carrying that momentum from each event.” 

Senior Mati Waligora started the event off strong with a 9.900. Three other 9.900-plus scores followed hers, including the final routine, Blanco’s 9.975, which earned a 10 from one judge. Although the Crimson Tide outscored the Tigers by .025 in the final rotation, it wasn’t enough. Alabama fell 197.975-197.925, with both teams just slightly below the coveted 198 mark.  

Despite the loss, Doggette said that the season-long improvement is clear. 

“Our theme is ‘meet the moment’ and I feel like we’ve done a great job of that each week,” Doggette said. “We keep climbing and keep doing what we know how to do. I’m proud of us.” 

Next week Alabama is back on the road, traveling to Columbia, Missouri, to face off against yet another pair of Tigers. The meet against Missouri begins at 6 p.m. CT on Friday, March 3, and will air on SEC Network+.  

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]