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    May 8, 2023 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    A short season for Liberty University’s women’s gymnastics team was highlighted by a record-setting second-place Level 9 showing at the National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs (NAIGC) Championships, held March 29-April 1 in Memphis, Tenn.

    “We definitely saved our best meet for literally the last day at nationals,” said senior AJ Kenniv, who received the Female Champion Award at last week’s Club Sports Choice Awards ceremony for the legacy she is leaving with the program. “It was a really good experience overall because it truly wasn’t about the scores that we put up; it was about the culture that we were building. We were able to do well because our character and our worth was not determined by our performance. It was really just the culmination of everything that we had built during that year.”

    First-year Head Coach Jessie Lowe, the Club Sports Female Team Coach of the Year, said the Lady Flames performed at their peak levels at nationals because of the confidence they had instilled in one another.

    “By the time we got to the finals day of nationals, they were really meshing together,” she said. “They had gotten enough competition experience under their belt so they felt like they could actually hit routines and all of the teamwork and connectedness and love for each other kind of all culminated on that finals day, where they were all required to compete for each other.”

    Sophie Boone receives the Female Athlete of the Year award from Flames Central co-anchor Matt Warner during Wednesday’s Club Sports Choice Awards. (Photo by Kendall Tidwell)

    Junior Sophie Boone, the Club Sports Female Athlete of the Year after becoming a national champion on the balance beam and narrowly missing a podium finish in the All-Around competition, said the team as a whole encouraged and exhorted one another to trust their training and fix their eyes on Jesus throughout the meet.

    “Just the culture that we had that day was so fun, everyone cheering and screaming and running up to each other and high-fiving,” Boone said. “Throughout the whole day, we were just praising God, and that just gave me chills. It was so fun.”

    Lowe added that regardless of how her team fared on the grandest stage, their season was a success based on the solid foundation that was established as a springboard for the future.

    “There wasn’t really a lot of expectation on how they competed or on how they would finish,” Lowe added. “The goal was just to build a really strong culture that we could sustain for years to come. That really dawned on me on the day before we actually competed at nationals. I was at total peace because I knew that we had achieved our goals in how we had built the culture of the program, and whatever we did at nationals after that was just a cherry on top. I’m just extremely proud of the leaders on the team that bought into what we were doing from the very start. They took it and they went and ran with it, and they were fantastic leaders both spiritually and in the gym, and outside of the gym.”

    She believes the future is bright with the upcoming senior class taking the torch and running with it.

    “We’re looking at a handful of freshmen that are going to be coming in, we have a couple of good recruits who we are excited about, and the junior class, they’re going to be stepping up into leadership roles and I have full confidence in them that they’re just going to do an awesome job next year,” Lowe said.

    “I definitely think nationals lit a fire inside of honestly all of us, so I’m really excited for next semester to just come in and work hard with everyone,” Boone added. “A lot of people have some goals on their list for next semester so I’m really excited to come in and see the team work together and start working on skills.”

    Kenniv is looking forward to staying engaged with the program as an alumna and cheering her former teammates on as they continue to raise the bar and let their lights shine in the seasons to come.

    “I’m really excited to leave with the freshmen and the juniors the culture that we’ve built this past year and watch them carry that into the next season and to continue to build on that and focus on what’s most important in the sport,” she said.

    Video edited by Micah Adams/Club Sports Video & Media Assistant