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Scott Rabalais | The Advocate | February 8, 2019

LSU gymnast Kennedi Edney chasing improvement, success as the Tigers head to Kentucky

UCLA wins women's gymnastics national championship

There are but a handful of LSU athletes and coaches whose exploits have been worthy of their names hanging from the catwalk of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Basketball players like Maravich himself, late women's basketball coach Sue Gunter, and special group of LSU gymnasts who have been NCAA individual champions.

Kennedi Edney's name is up there, testament to that one magical sweep down the runway and over the table she made in 2017 to win the NCAA individual vault championship.

NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: 2019 winter selection show times, schedule

But that moment and her name is something she dwells on about as much as her father Tyus Edney's famous coast-to-coast drive and basket to lift UCLA past Missouri in the second round of the 1995 NCAA basketball tournament.

To her, dad is just dad, not someone who authored one of the most legendary moments in March Madness history three years before she was born. And to her, that NCAA vault title and her still career high score of 9.9875 on that event is not something she dwells on now.

"I just don't," Edney said. "Not that I don't care for it, but it's kind of like, 'OK, it happened and it's over now.' I'm not a cocky person who would say, 'Look, my name's up there.'

"I just don't pay attention."

There is plenty to pay attention to now as the No. 5-ranked Tigers leap back into Southeastern Conference competition at the halfway mark of their regular season with a meet Friday at Kentucky (7:30 p.m., SEC Network).

MORE MAGIC ON THE FLOOR: 5 things you might not know about UCLA gymnastics and Katelyn Ohashi's viral perfect floor routine

When she is on, Edney is one of the nation's best gymnasts. Already a 10-time All-American, Edney is ranked eighth nationally on vault based on her season average to date, 10th on balance beam and 12th as an all-arounder competing in all four events (plus floor and uneven bars). On LSU's team, only senior Sarah Finnegan is ranked higher and also competes as an all-arounder.

Edney has been consistently spectacular on bars this season, never scoring less than a 9.90. She is coming off her best vault of the season, a 9.95 last Friday against North Carolina State.

It's on floor and beam where Edney has struggled at times. Edney has scored lower than a 9.875 in four of LSU's five meets on floor and cracked 9.90 twice on beam.

Edney said she believes she is headed in the right direction.

"I know I have areas where I can do better, but I'm growing and being more consistent," Edney said. "It's not the right time to peak now, because it's only the sixth meet."

LSU coach D-D Breaux said much of the focus in practice has been on improving Edney's floor scores, an event in which she scored over 9.90 six times in 2018 including four scores of 9.925 or higher.

Breaux said Edney's routine is fraught with challenges, especially the first of her three floor passes which is an E-pass, the highest level of difficulty.

"It's a blind landing," Breaux said. "It's hard to do. Her shape is too open. She needs to fix her shape and her angle of takeoff.

"She'll get it straight. She'll get that double Arabian where it needs to be. She'll get her landings under control. She had a great vault. Her bar routine (against N.C. State) was the best we've seen. I felt her beam routine (a 9.825) was beautiful. I can't speak for what the judges thought, but the coaches we thought it was a good routine with a lot of confidence and amplitude."

Edney said she does not focus on numbers. Her reaction at the end of the routine tells the story, usually a double pump of her fists crossing her chest before she heads off to collect LSU's now ubiquitous stick crown. But she admits the demands of being an all-arounder are high.

"It is a tough situation," she said. "Of course I have weak events that aren't my best, but they're still good enough to help contribute to the team. Areas I'm weak at isn't more pressure, but I have to try harder. But I've been an all-arounder since I started gymnastics so it's like second nature. It's always an honor, because not everyone gets an opportunity to do all four."

LSU (3-2, 1-2 SEC) will be leaning on Edney again Friday as the Tigers try to get back to .500 in conference against No. 17 Kentucky (3-4, 1-2).

"Our mindset is to keep growing," she said. "We're trying as Jay (Clark, LSU associate head coach) would say to 'turn a corner.' "

It is Edney's turn to make as much as anyone's.

GYMNASTICS HISTORY: The complete listing of NCAA gymnastics champions 

This article is written by Scott Rabalais from The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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