Kennedi Edney scored a 9.95 in her first career vault, scored a 9.9875 to win the individual national championship at the end of her freshman season — and the rest is history.
But not so much.
“Coming off of [the national championship] and going into my sophomore season, when I got to nationals, I guess you could say that’s what I was hyper focused on and that didn’t go very well,” Edney said. “At this point, I’m a different person than what I was my freshman year.
"My mom always tells me all the time that you’re a different person each year. You don’t need to replicate who you were last year because that’s not you anymore. You need to be better than what you were. That’s what I think about.”
Edney admits that it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing since that national championship and she’s run into some bumps along the way.
Her sophomore season wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. She averaged a 9.80 or higher on all events her sophomore season, with a 39.385 all-around average.
The struggles appeared at the start of the 2019 season, when Edney struggled to stick the first pass of her explosive floor routine. Though Edney continued to hit routines on three events, she averaged a 9.775 on floor with a lone 9.95 in LSU’s win over Missouri through the first nine meets of the season.
Then she turned a corner.
In LSU’s meets with Georgia, Oregon State and Arizona, Edney hit the double Arabian on the first pass of her floor routine each time for scores of 9.925, 10 and 9.95, respectively. Just one week after her first career perfect 10 on floor against Oregon State, Edney hit her second career perfect 10 on vault at Arizona.
“I was in shock,” Edney said. “It was just unreal to even see that. Not that I don’t ever see me ever getting a 10, but it was just even more shocking that it happened this year. I just go up there and do the best routine that I can at any point.”
Edney said she changed both the physical buildup and training as well as her mentality coming into this season. Those things have allowed her to succeed on a whole different level.
Senior all-arounder McKenna Kelley agreed, saying that she’s seen Edney mature in ways she never thought she would, both in and out of the gym.
“She just does the job,” Kelley said. “She’s really good at taking criticism and not taking it personally and applying it and doing something about. That’s what we’ve done as we’ve challenged her to step up and be the Kennedi we know. She’s done that and more. We couldn’t have asked her to do a better job.
“I’ve seen her step up to the plate, obviously as an athlete, but as an encourager and a leader for this team. It’s been really cool to see her grow in that aspect.”
Edney said that her overall mindset has just naturally changed this season as she has become more focused in the gym. She even matured in her physical training, as she attempted to be more consistent in preseason to take the strain off her body and be ready once competition started.
“I have definitely seen myself grow,” Edney said. “Coming into the preseason this past year, I changed my mentality all the way. I realized that in order for my sake and my body to be OK, I need to be efficient and get done as quickly as possible, and that’s what I did this preseason.
"Past preseasons I was usually the last one to finish because I was inconsistent or not focused at all. It was time to change.”
That consistency carries over to the arena.
Specifically for vault, she has focused more on the technique going into the Yurchenko 1 1/2 vault. Vault coach Bob Moore tells all the gymnasts that the landing comes naturally if you do the first half correctly, so Edney focuses on the roundoff and getting her hands on the table cleanly so that she doesn’t have to worry about the landing.
She goes through that same process for her double Arabian on floor.
Her teammates said they’ve seen these type of performances and scores from Edney all season and in the preseason, and it doesn’t surprise them at all to see it in competition.
“It’s not just what we’ve seen Kennedi do through the season, it’s the maturity and what she has done throughout this year,” said LSU coach D-D Breaux. “The preseason is so important to what we do now and her focus has been on her readiness and on making herself better and being coachable and making changes.
“I think we’re seeing a real finely tuned athlete. She’s a gamer, and we’re seeing that and she’s performing at a really high level.”
When it comes to competition, the key to her success is simple, she said — just don’t think about anything.
“I’m the person that if I think too much, then it’s going to go all wrong,” Edney said. “So I’m really just going out there free-minded and just doing what I know how to do.”
As the Tigers enter the final stretch of the season, Edney and her teammates have said that they’re mostly functioning on auto-pilot.
It’s all a mental game at this point, and Edney is just trying to let her body do what it knows how to do and help her team win. And if that ends up with another national championship, it’s just that much better.
“If you know Kennedi, she’s such a laid back, such a fun, outgoing person,” Kelley said. “Her gymnastics matters, but she doesn’t wear it as a burden. She knows that she’s such a vital aspect to this team, but she wears it with like a calmness to it. She doesn’t overanalyze things. She just gets up and does her job.”