By Andrew Alexander
On the list of all-time great Tiger recruiting classes, the LSU gymnastics 2011 class will go down as one of the best in LSU athletics history. Headlined by Baton Rouge native Rheagan Courville and Texans Jessie Jordan and Lloimincia Hall, the class of 2011 has redefined the standard of excellence for the Tiger gymnastics program.
Individual NCAA championships, dozens of All-American honors & multiple Super Six appearances highlight the stellar careers of this successful group of seniors, who have extended the Golden Era of LSU gymnastics that began with the Tigers’ first Super Six trip in 2008.
One accomplishment still eludes the Lady Tigers and coach D-D Breaux: a national championship.
After claiming the NCAA Ames Regional title two weeks ago to advance to the NCAA Championships for the 26th time in school history, No. 4 LSU (24-2) prepares for potential run at history this weekend in Fort Worth, Texas.
Before the last meet of their illustrious careers in the Purple and Gold, DIG Magazine caught up with LSU’s All-American senior trio.
DIG: Why did you decide to attend LSU?
Rheagan Courville: My family has always been die-hard Tiger fans, and I visited other places and nothing compared. There’s so much tradition and pride here. My family has been Tiger fans ever since I can remember; it’s just inside of me to be a Tiger. I just feed off of the excellence they demand here.
Jessie Jordan: Definitely the sense of family and acceptance. You want to be a part of something that wants you to be a part of it. D-D was so inviting and the team was so inviting that it really just felt like home. My parents and grandparents can travel here easily, and I wanted them to be a part of it as well. I just fell in love with LSU.
Lloimincia Hall: It’s so close to home, and it’s such a wonderful program. LSU is very welcoming, and its tradition is built on so much positivity. It is just amazing to be a part of such a wonderful university. My parents felt like it was home when they got here, and we felt love when we walked through the door.
DIG: What’s the worst gymnastics memory of your career at LSU?
LH: Our freshman year when we were sitting in the stands and looking at Super Six. We came in not knowing about it. D-D was giving us a visual about it, but we didn’t have that attack mindset because we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.
JJ: I would agree with Lloimincia because being recruited here means you’re good in club. You want to do the best you can and be on top and get first. Sitting in the stands, you think that could’ve been us out on the floor. It was definitely a motivation, and it was time for the team to kick it into another gear and train hard and be ready for the next season. But it definitely hurt.
RC: My first year at Nationals when we didn’t qualify for Super Six, and we had to sit in the stands and watch the other teams try to win a national title. That was pretty rough because you realize at that moment that you have no chance to win a national title, and that’s why you came here.
DIG: On the flip side, what’s been the best memory?
RC: Qualifying for Super Six two times in a row. We really just came back with a vengeance, and it was awesome to be able to go in with confidence. We just knew that we didn’t want what happened our first year to happen again.
JJ: Of course one of the best memories is getting third place in Super Six, finishing the highest in school history. Honestly, I can tell you regionals last year in Baton Rouge was one of the most fun meets that I’ve ever had. The team wasn’t concerned about anyone else on the floor because we were having so much fun with our fans. There were a lot of people out to support us, and we were just nailing things one after another. It was seriously so much fun.
LH: I would definitely say finishing third at Super Six and last year’s regionals. Additionally, I would say this year against Florida was memorable. That was something we used as momentum, and it was the first time we had the attendance grow significantly. Those three events are something that will definitely go down in history on my personal book that I will remember about my time here. And of course, this weekend.
DIG: How has LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux impacted your life these past four years?
JJ: She’s been a positive role model for all of us, and has really pushed us to be the best that we can be in everything in life. She pushes us to be involved in the community and gives us so many opportunities to grow as people and as gymnasts. We’re incredibly happy that she’s our head coach. She has so much enthusiasm, and it’s so admirable.
RC: She’s not just a coach; she’s like my second mom. There’s so much comfort that she brings to every workout. She’s intense, but it comes from passion and love for what she does. It makes you so much better, and she brings out the best in you.
LH: D-D gave me that growing up mindset and a greater maturity level. She wants to instill something in you, so that when you go on to whatever God has for you after gymnastics that you will be ready. No matter if you have a boss that’s intense or a boss that’s sweet, whatever, you will be ready because D-D instilled those positive values in you.
DIG: Did you feel more of a sense of accomplishment or disappointment after last year’s third place Super Six finish?
RC: We finished so well last year that there wasn’t much to be disappointed in. It created some motivation because we knew we wanted that national title and were so close to it. We knew what we needed to do to fix it, it’s not like we had a perfect meet. We were able to come back and evaluate what we needed to do different. We’ve worked this entire season to accomplish that, and I think so far we have.
JJ: After last year’s Super Six meet the coaches told us to hold our heads high, and it was something to be proud of because we gave it all we had. Personally, I found things myself that I could improve on. I could improve on my fitness level, and going in a little more confident this year. I feel that we’ve done that, and I’ve done that. We’re extremely prepared and ready for NCAA’s.
LH: Last year we were very excited, but we were also motivated to get back into the gym. We got third. It felt like first, but it wasn’t first. Last year we knew we had it, but we weren’t as confident, and we didn’t have the mindset of what we were getting ourselves into.
DIG: How do you want to be remembered by LSU fans?
LH: As a class we wanted to leave a legacy that helped lead a team to greatness, and lead a team to something that no senior class has been a part of here if you look at the history. We wanted to lead the team inside and out of the gym to greatness.
RC: A team that would stop it nothing to achieve our goals and put forth every single thing we had to this team because we loved everything about it and every member on it. I feel like we’ve left everything we had on the floor. I don’t think we held back on anything, and we gave it our all every single meet.
JJ: We really to set up a situation that the classes below us could come into and be excited about. We haven’t taken these four years as a joke, and we’ve been very serious about our training and reaching the goals the coaches have set for us. Our senior class has been amazing, and last year’s senior class was awesome at setting the bar high. I hope everyone following us really has the same mindset. We’ve created a culture here with Jay, Bob and D-D that we going after a national championship. You’re on the bus or you’re off the bus so you better hop on.
DIG: Why do you think LSU gymnastics has gained popularity these past few years?
RC: It’s an exciting thing to be a part of. We’ve created such a buzz in the community, and that’s what we really wanted to do. We wanted to get everybody to be as excited for this as we were. I think they realize that we were serious about this season. We wanted to accomplish these big things that had never been done. When everybody realized how much fun it was to watch, how amazing of a sport it is and how much it takes to be a gymnast, I think they realized they wanted to be a part of it with us, and be part of our success.
JJ: We’ve created something that people want to be a part of, and we want them to be a part of it as well. People are starting to realize how much it impacts our competitions, how much fun the competitions are and how much fun we have with them. It’s been a great experience. Freshman year there weren’t that many people, but we were happy with what we had. Looking up in the stands this year and seeing people almost up to the rafters, that was amazing. It makes me so proud to be a part of this team and so happy for D-D as well.
LH: I think we averaged about 3,000 fans my freshman year and then coming in there and seeing 13,000 my senior year. To see the growth of the program and the buzz that went around because we’re out in the community. It’s much more than gymnastics; it’s being out there. We’re a part of the people, part of the community. And we just can flip. I can’t to sit in the stands and see how much it’s going to grow from here.
DIG: How do you think you will react when your final meet is over this weekend?
LH: In my eyes it’s going to be bittersweet because I know I will have laid it all out on the floor. Being part of a legacy for four years, there’s nothing else I’ll be able to do at that point. Just enjoy it, it’s bittersweet and be able to see what else God has for me, but of course always have the love of LSU gymnastics in my heart.
RC: I think I’ll feel accomplished and happy with what we did here, what we were able to leave behind and what we created. I’m not going to feel any regret. I’m just going to feel very content with what we’ve done here.
JJ: It will definitely be bittersweet, but we plan on going in there with no regrets. That’s how we’ve gone into each competition this year. With that being said, as long as we go in there aggressive, having no regrets and doing what we know how to do, then it’s going to be exciting. I’m going to happy and ready to hold up that trophy.