NO.lsugym.121723_2935 MJ.JPG

LSU gymnast Alyona Shchennikova waves to the crowd while on the stage during the team introductions at Gymnastics 101 exhibition meet on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The LSU gymnastics team had plenty of depth going into this season — depth that was quickly tested the very first week.

Fifth-year senior Alyona Shchennikova suffered what is likely a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in practice early last week for LSU’s season-opening 196.975-196.775 win Friday over Ohio State. Shchennikova posted news of the injury Sunday on her Instagram account, and LSU coach Jay Clark confirmed the injury Monday. The injury came on vault, Clark said — an unlikely place for an Achilles tear.

“I truly believe everything happens for a reason,” Shchennikova posted alongside a photo of her smiling at Friday’s meet, her lower left leg heavily wrapped. “Can’t wait to be this team’s biggest cheerleader this year!”

Shchennikova was one of several LSU gymnasts who decided to return in 2024 for a fifth or sixth season. She competed as an all-arounder in 11 of the Tigers’ 16 meets in 2023 despite a nagging groin injury.

The native of Evergreen, Colorado, also suffered a right Achilles tendon injury before coming to LSU.

Clark also said senior Elena Arenas is also sidelined at least for now with a chronic back problem. Arenas did not compete against Ohio State.

Off to Utah

The Tigers leave Tuesday for West Valley City, Utah, to begin preparing for a big four-team meet Saturday against reigning NCAA champion Oklahoma, Utah and UCLA. The Sprouts Farmers Market Collegiate Quad is set for 3 p.m. CST and will be nationally televised on ABC.

All four teams made it to the NCAA Championship semifinals last year. OU finished first, Utah third and LSU fourth in the championship meet.

The Tigers’ next home meet is Jan. 19 against Kentucky.

Tigers drop to fifth

LSU’s score ranked fifth-best among teams that competed nationally this past weekend, according to the website The Tigers started No. 3 in the WCGA coaches’ preseason poll and No. 2 in the preseason rankings.

Clark noted that as is often the case early in the season, the rankings are a bit skewed. Florida, ranked No. 2 in the WCGA preseason poll, did not compete over the weekend.

Meanwhile, LSU had two falls on balance beam and had to count a 9.20 from Sierra Ballard. Had the Tigers gotten a typical 9.80 from Ballard or freshman Konnor McClain (her fall led to an 8.95), LSU could have easily had a 197.575, which would have been the No. 2 score for the first weekend.

The rankings going into Saturday’s meet find Oklahoma at No. 1 (197.850), Utah at No. 2 (197.300), LSU at No. 5 and UCLA (196.550) at No. 12.

For more LSU sports updates, sign up for our newsletter at