Bridget Dean's main goal is confidence.
The all-arounder is apart of a seven-person sophomore class that has become the bulk of LSU's lineup this season.
"At the end of the year meeting [in 2018], it was just knowing that the sophomore class would have to step up and contribute more," Dean said. "We all knew that. I feel like we really have stepped up our game. We're getting confident in who we are as gymnasts.'
But unlike her fellow sophomores — Christina Desiderio, Sami Durante, Sarah Edwards and Reagan Campbell — Dean didn't compete her freshman year.
She didn't even compete during her senior year of high school and last year of Junior Olympics, when she sustained a nagging back injury. Dean had back issues since she was about 10-years-old, but she and her coaches could not know how to manage it.
Once she got to LSU, the trainers saw that that issue was all mechanical — upper body was too tight and was in turn hurting her lower back. They then had Dean in consistent therapy to rehab her back.
"[Freshman year] it been kind of like seeing if I could still do it," Dean said. "If I could get my back to feel better and get my skills back. I made alternate last year, which was easier."
Now in her sophomore season, Dean has solidified spots in both the bars and beam lineups where she averages 9.765 and 9.770 respectively.
She is becoming more and more comfortable each week.
"It's been easier for me," Dean said. "Each meet, even my teammates are saying that I look more confident. It's been easier than I thought, but at the same time, I'm still improving and I want to improve."
Coach D-D Breaux calls it polishing the rock.
As gymnasts become more confident in the simple parts of their gymnastics and their performances, Breaux and the coaching staff are able to talk about the more nitty-gritty details of a routine — pointing your toes, extending your body, your presentation.
Breaux said she's seeing the right things from Dean in practice and in meets, and even expects 9.85 routines to become more common for her.
Dean said that her freshman season was about growing both in her gymnastics and in her body, but this year is more about maintaining that form.
"Everyday that kid gets better," senior all-arounder McKenna Kelley said. "Every single day, she's probably the last one in the gym and that just goes to show that she takes her time and she's focusing on those details and how she can improve. She's progressing and everyday she tries to be better for the team."
Dean and fellow sophomore Desiderio stepped into the one-two spots on beam, ones that Breaux says are just as important as the anchor spot in setting the pace of the lineup.
Those spots were left vacant by Myia Hambrick and Erin Macadaeg, both of whom averaged 9.85+ during her senior season. She hopes to bring that same power and passion to the beam lineup this season.
"I don't have as much experience, obviously, but I do see growth in where I can be," Dean said. "They were good leaders and people I could look up to. I'm definitely trying to fill their shoes. It's still a work in progress, but I think at the end me and [Desiderio] are going to continue to step up and produce."
Though she is an all-around gymnast, Dean admits that she has never been a "bars person" before coming to LSU. Her injury prevent her from training on the power events like vault and floor during her freshman season, and allowed her bars routine to continue to grow.
Though she knows what she needs to polish, Dean struggles to apply her corrections in-meet, as she often "shortens up" and tries not to fall.
As Breaux talks to Dean about the more minute details of her routines, Dean hopes it will come more natural to her as the season progresses — everything from hitting handstands to pointing toes matters.
"I'm seeing consistency," Breaux said. "And I'm seeing a high level of pride in what she's doing and pride in getting better."
Dean only hope to continue getting better as her LSU career is only just starting.
She wants to become a true all-around gymnast as she continues to grow going forward.
"Right now, we're just making sure that I'm on bars and beam and can do that and hopefully put in floor if needed," Dean said. "This summer I want to start training vault again so I can do it junior year and be an all-arounder, so I can help the team as much as I can."