Kennedi Edney ended her first season as an LSU Tiger much like the way she began it: with a stuck Yurchenko 1 1/2 vault and an exuberant celebration. The freshman nailed her vault during the semifinals of the 2017 NCAA Championships in St. Louis last month to win the vault title with a score of 9.9875.
She showed throughout the season that she has plenty of power. But it was been reining in that power and controlling the landings that has been the focus for the Chino, CA, native. It was a slow process that really began when she arrived in Baton Rouge, LA.
"It took some work trying to get the landing," Edney said. "When I was in JO, I just had to make sure I landed safely. My coaches told me not to focus on sticking and stuff.
[At LSU] they have taught me ways to stick. It's coming easier and easier now.Edney finished the regular season tied for 12th in the country with a regional qualifying score of 9.910. She posted eight scores of 9.900 or better and did not score below a 9.800 all season.
The LSU vault rotation was one of the most dynamic lineups in the country. The Tigers boasted six vaults starting from a 10.0: a Yurchenko 1 1/2 from Edney, Ruby Harrold, Myia Hambrick, and Sydney Ewing; a front handspring front pike half from McKenna Kelley; and a Yurchenko double from Ashleigh Gnat. It provided a huge advantage for the Tigers, especially when LSU was hitting its landings.
It also provided a confidence boost.
The Tigers posted totals better than a 49.400 nine times in the 2017 season. They tallied a 49.5625 during the NCAA semifinals on April 14, good for the third-best score of the season. Edney opened up the season with a huge 1 1/2 and earned a 9.950 on her first competitive routine as a Tiger. After the massive vault, LSU head coach D-D Breaux dubbed her a "fire-breathing dragon."
Well Friday was a fun way to open the season! Get ready for the full rankings release tomorrow morning. Hint: 1 is our favorite number pic.twitter.com/tGqkWYdVjk— LSU Gymnastics (@LSUgym) January 9, 2017
The freshman wasn't just dynamic on vault. She competed on the uneven bars in all 14 meets, on balance beam in 10, and on floor exercise six times. Her floor exercise was fun and high energy with equally huge tumbling. Her double Arabian was one of the highlights. It was also the skill that Edney calls her most challenging to learn.
"It's such a blind landing," Edney said. "You have to really know where you are in the air to figure out this is where I need to open up and land."
Edney was a key piece of the Tigers' lineup on three events during the postseason. She helped the Tigers to their first SEC Championship since 1981 and earned a place on the All-SEC freshman team. The Tigers had a hiccup at regionals on balance beam. Ewing came off the beam and Edney's routine was shaky. But LSU posted strong performances on the other three events. The experience proved to be a lesson for the freshman.
"The biggest thing that we took out was that even though we did have a mess-up in our beam lineup, we still came back strong," Edney said.
That's how our team is. If we mess up on an event, we go strong on the other events. If we start strong everything else becomes strong.
Most Difficulty In The 2017 NCAA Super Six: Vault Edition