FORT WORTH, Texas — It was only just a dream.

For years, decades really, the notion of winning a national championship for LSU gymnastics was like a distant star, close enough to see but too far away to touch.

From humble beginnings?— lonely meets in the Carl Maddox Field House or in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center with a purple curtain lowered on one side of the arena to hide acres of empty seats?— the program grabbed a tenuous toehold while programs like Alabama and Georgia and Utah thrived.

The sport eventually grew at LSU to the point where the Tigers drew five-figure crowds and became regular national finalists. But then there was the pain of several times seeing the trophy brush past their fingers, only to fall into the clutches of another team like Oklahoma.

Always Oklahoma.

This year was different, yet in several ways oddly familiar. LSU went to Fort Worth, Texas, as one of the best teams in the country but still a decided underdog to the Sooners, much like the LSU women’s basketball team when it went to Dallas for last year’s Women’s Final Four.

Then, déjà vu. The favored Sooners shockingly got bounced in the semifinals, just like South Carolina against Iowa last year. Once again, the Tigers suddenly found themselves in the role of the favorite.

Again, LSU came through. Winning a long-sought, ardently desired, once seemingly destined to never happen national championship.

Sometimes, the best things are really worth the wait.

“Envisioning this happening today was a goal and a dream I kept in the back of my mind,” said fifth-year senior and Dallas native Kiya Johnson. “For it to come today, it’s crazy.”

Fifty seasons. That’s how long it took for LSU to finally reach the top. To complete “The Climb,” to borrow the title of the program’s popular in-house documentary series.

Many great teams. Many great athletes. Jeanie Beadle. Sandra Smith. Jennifer Wood. Nicki Arnstad. April Burkholder. Ashleigh Clare-Kearney. Susan Jackson. Rheagan Courville. Ashleigh Gnat. Saran Finnegan. Myia Hambrick. Kennedy Edney. So many were in attendance Saturday (Hambrick is an assistant at Utah) as the dream turned into reality. So many more were watching across the country.

This title was for them, too. What is the saying about standing on the shoulders of giants? This LSU team is unquestionably its greatest, but it stands on some pretty great sequined shoulders as well. And some of those greats had a piece of this title, greats like Gnat, now an LSU assistant coach, and Courville, who designed the “Ice Queen” leotards the Tigers wore Saturday.

Only a trace of purple and gold in those leos, but definitely quite regal. Perfect accoutrement for ladies in waiting as they transformed into the queens of their sport.

The post-meet celebration for LSU, the trophy-raising, confetti-falling, screaming-your-lungs-out celebration, would not have been complete without one more person. LSU coach Jay Clark made sure to call former coach D-D Breaux up to the podium to share the moment, wrapping her in a huge hug.

This victory was Breaux’s as much as anyone else’s. It was Breaux who fought for the very life of this program, once even refusing to go across the street from the PMAC to the athletic director’s office when then AD Bob Brodhead summoned her, certain that he was going to ax the program as he did men’s gymnastics.

Breaux raised the money for LSU’s world-class gymnastics facility, hired Clark after he was fired at Georgia, helped recruit so many great gymnasts including NCAA all-around champion Haleigh Bryant, who committed as an eighth-grader. LSU gymnastics wouldn’t exist in the form it is without her. It might not exist at all.

“She gave me an opportunity when I needed one,” Clark said. “She worked 35 years to build this program before I got here and she treated me not like an assistant coach but a partner once I was on board. She was open to change and allowed me to have opinions.

“The facility we have and the 43 years she put in and the battles she fought with Title IX and everything else. I thought it was important when this program won its first national title that it was her title as much as anything.”

Of course, as soon as one season ends the view turns to the next. Bryant has not tipped her hand but she is eligible to return for a fifth year. Whether the national title impacts her plans or not remains to be seen. Johnson can return, too, as can Olivia Dunne and Alyona Shchennikova, who missed the entire season because of injury.

Aleah Finnegan, who won the NCAA floor title and clinched the team title with one last 9.95 on beam (she could have scored a 9.60 and LSU still would have won) will be back for her senior year after representing the Philippines in the Paris Olympics. Super talented freshman Konnor McClain will try to make the U.S. Olympic team and will be back with classmate Amari Drayton. LSU’s incoming recruiting class is arguably the nation’s best, too, led by Zoe Miller, Kaliya Lincoln, Kailin Chio and Lexi Zeiss.

There may be more titles in LSU’s future. Nothing will quite be like the first one, though. Because it isn’t only just a dream anymore.

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