LSU gymnastics recently announced LSU’s coaching staff will look a little different for the upcoming 2022 season. Following a fantastic debut season for head coach Jay Clark, two staff members recently announced their leave from the program.
Assistant coach Bob Moore is retiring after over 30 seasons in collegiate gymnastics, while volunteer coach Ashleigh Clare-Kearney Thigpen has finished her eleventh and final season with LSU athletics.
A two-time NCAA Champion herself, Thigpen was known for her skill in floor choreography and produced some of the biggest floor scores in the nation during her time at LSU. On the other hand, Moore is arguably one of the greatest vault coaches in NCAA Gymnastics history. Thanks to Moore, the Tigers have remained consistent with some of the best vault scores in the nation for years.
With these two gone, LSU gymnastics obviously has large holes to fill. This week however, Clark announced that Garrett Griffeth and 2004 Olympian Courtney McCool Griffeth would be the perfect duo for the job.
“I am excited to pour my heart into this team and the program that D-D (Breaux) has built over the course of four decades. I can’t wait to get to Baton Rouge and feel the roar of the 13,000 LSU strong in the PMAC on Friday nights.” Courtney said.
After two seasons at the University of Utah, the Griffeths will come to Baton Rouge to serve alongside Ashleigh Gnat as the new assistant coaches to the gymnastics program.
“Garrett and Courtney come in and check all the boxes for this program,” Clark said. “They are two assistants who can coach, recruit and participate in all aspects of LSU gymnastics. They are both personal coaches who care deeply for every student-athlete. Their energy is infectious, and their character is impeccable.”
The pairs’ history in collegiate gymnastics runs back to around 2007. McCool-Griffeth competed at the University of Georgia on a full scholarship, winning three national team titles and three All-American honors. She also won the 2008 NCAA National Championship on floor and the 2010 SEC Individual title on floor. Meanwhile, Griffeth graduated with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science with a concentration in athletic training from Georgia. Griffeth spent time interning with the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, the University of Georgia and Indianapolis Colts afterwards.
Their first official gig was as assistant coaches at Texas Woman’s University in 2013. The two assisted the Pioneers in winning the title at the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championship. The Griffeths left the program to join the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2018. With their help as assistant coaches, Arkansas was able to advance to the NCAA Championships for the first time in five seasons. Griffeth was All-American Braie Speed’s vault coach while McCool-Griffeth choreographed Sophia Carter, who garnered regular season All-America honors on floor and qualified as an individual competitor into the 2019 NCAA Championships.
The pair finally moved to Salt Lake City to coach Utah Gymnastics up until the last season before coming to LSU. The team recently won the 2021 Pac-12 Championship and went 21-1 in the regular season. The Utes finished third nationally in the NCAA Championship Final.
Directly under Griffeth as vault coach, the Utes’ vault lineup finished in the top-10 of national rankings. These accomplishments garnered the two Griffeths with WGCA Region 2 Assistant Coaches of the Year in 2020.
With Clark and Griffeth’s years of expertise and experience combined with Gnat and McCool-Griffeth’s personal success as athletes in the sport, the group arguably becomes one of the top coaching staffs in the NCAA.
“I have the upmost respect for Jay and Ashleigh (Gnat), and Courtney and I look forward to working together with this staff and team to bring a National Championship home to Baton Rouge.”