Sarah Finnegan selected for Corbett Award as state’s top female amateur athlete

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Sarah Finnegan

NEW ORLEANS – Sarah Finnegan, an LSU star and arguably the top collegiate gymnast in the country, will be presented with the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Corbett Award on Saturday, August 10, as part of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Banquet at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Corbett Awards are presented annually to the top male and female amateur athletes in the state of Louisiana. A total of 26 individuals, including this year’s Hall of Fame class, and two teams will be honored at this year’s banquet. All of the honorees are selected by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

When Finnegan arrived at LSU in the fall of 2015, she already owned one of the most impressive gymnastics résumés in the nation – highlighted by the fact that she was a member of the United States National Team which competed in the 2012 Olympic Games. While she didn’t get the opportunity to compete in the Olympic Games (she was an alternate), there are only a handful of women in the world who can say they reached that international stage.

“To say that I was an Olympian at 15 years old, not a lot of people can say that,” Finnegan told Nola.com. “It’s brought me a lot of rewards and different opportunities, different experiences.”

After taking some time for her body to recover from the grueling training of an Olympic gymnast, she wasn’t ready to give up the sport and opted to attend LSU.

“We watched what she did when she was 14 and 15 and 16 and we knew what she could do and what she could accomplish,” head coach D-D Breaux told Nola.com. “When you’ve got that kind of individual, you know that you’ve got something special.”

Finnegan quickly established herself as a star with the Tigers. As her career progressed through the 2018-19 season, it became apparent that she was arguably the greatest gymnast in the storied history of the LSU program.

This year, Finnegan was honored with the AAI Award, which is awarded to the top senior gymnast in the nation – it is considered the sport’s Heisman Trophy. She also won the SEC all-around title and was named the Central Region Gymnast of the Year (for the second straight year).

The Lee’s Summit, Mo., native rewrote the LSU history books in her four years in Baton Rouge with 95 individual wins in 212 routines competed in that span. She became the first LSU gymnast to win an NCAA Championship on bars when she did it in 2017 (she repeated in 2019).

Finnegan finished her career as a 23-time All-American to tie for the most in school history. One of the best beam workers ever at LSU, she set the career record for titles in the event with 27.

A five-time SEC champion, Finnegan won three titles at the league meet earlier this year. She finished her career tied for the most in school history. She earned six perfect scores in her career – two each on bars, beam and floor. She is the second gymnast in school history to earn a perfect score on three events.

Finnegan saved her best performances for 2019 as a dominating force in the all-around. She competed in all four events in 16 of 17 meets and earned 14 wins to shatter the school record. She also set the LSU single-season record for beam titles with 11.

One of the most remarkable records of her illustrious career is the 49 individual titles in 2019. The original record was set by Sandra Smith in 1980 and tied in 2010 by April Burkholder. No other LSU gymnast since Burkholder has won more than 30 titles in a season.

“I’ve done this sport for the past 19 years and it’s coming to an end,” Finnegan told Nola.com prior to the NCAA Championships. “I haven’t really known anything but gymnastics in my life. I just want to savor every moment because I’m surrounded by a great group of girls. I’m with the best collegiate gymnasts in the nation at the best school. I just want to take it all in and have fun.”

“Sarah Finnegan is the greatest gymnast and one of the greatest LSU athletes ever,” Breaux said. “From the day she stepped on to this campus, Sarah put everything she could into the classroom, the community and in the gym. She has achieved so much success as an individual, but I know that means nothing compared to what she was able to do as a teammate to help LSU achieve greatness.”

Finnegan is the third LSU gymnast to earn the Corbett Award, joining Susan Jackson (2009-10) and Ashleigh Gnat (2016-17).

The Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee began in 1957 when James Collins spearheaded a group of sports journalists to form a sports awards committee to immortalize local sports history. For 13 years, the committee honored local athletes each month. In 1970, the Sugar Bowl stepped in to sponsor and revitalize the committee, leading to the creation of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1971, honoring 10 legends from the Crescent City in its first induction class. While adding the responsibility of selecting Hall of Famers, the committee has continued to recognize the top amateur athlete in the Greater New Orleans area each month – the honors enter their 63rd year in 2019. To be eligible, an athlete must be a native of the greater New Orleans area or must compete for a team in the metropolitan region.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 93 Hall of Fame players, 50 Hall of Fame coaches and 18 Heisman Trophy winners in its 85-year history. The 86th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, featuring top teams from the Big 12 and the SEC, will be played on January 1, 2020. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors over 100,000 student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.5 billion into the local economy in the last decade.

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