Our next 20 Questions athlete is Gym Worlds Kennedy Griffin. I first noticed Kennedy last year (2019) because of her power and her swagger. She has a way about her on the competition floor, she radiates confidence. Kennedy, who was nominated for a Yahtzee Award this year, has developed quite the qualifying pattern when it comes to National Championships. In 2017 Kennedy was the first alternate for L9 Easterns then in 2018 she qualified and place 2nd in the vault, 4th on bars, 8th on floor and 7th AA. In 2019, as a
first year Level 10, she was again in the alternate spot for JO Nationals. Fast forward to 2020 and I definitely had Kennedy as “one to watch” for the 2020 Dream Team. However, we did not make it that far in the season. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend a practice session with the Level 10s at Gym World in Broadview Heights, Ohio for our All Access series. Kennedy is looking fantastic! she has so much power and some great skills all over the gym. She will definitely be on the top of my “one to watch” as we start the competition season and head towards Nationals in 2021. Let’s get to know Kennedy a little better as she continues to get meet ready and start a new season, in our new normal.
How did you get into Gymnastics? How old were you? I started gymnastics when I was around 18 months in the parent tot classes. My mom is a gymnastics coach so I have been around the sport my whole life. I loved being in the gym and watching all of the girls flipping around and doing cool tricks. I grew to love the sport and the rush of adrenaline at a young age. As I grew older I began teaching myself basic tumbling skills while at the gym with my mom, jumping all over the tumble track and walking across the beam. During those days in the gym I knew gymnastics was my sport.
What is your favorite event? Why? This may be a surprise to some but my favorite event is bars. I personally love bars because it is not my strongest event and does not come as easy to me as other events. I enjoy the hard work and dedication it takes for me to learn a skill, and the feeling of accomplishment as soon as I learn and master a skill.
Favorite Skill? Dream Skill? My favorite skill to compete would have to be my double layout on floor. The skill is so much fun to do and perform, especially when the crowd is cheering. The rush of adrenaline and excitement when I run down the floor is something I will always love from doing that skill. My dream skill would have to be connecting my combo on bars, which is a Maloney- tkatchev-bail. It is a connection I have always found so pretty when done well, and I am currently working on it now !
Favorite part of Gymnastics? Why? My favorite part of gymnastics would have to be meeting all kinds of people from all over the country, but specifically Region 5. I love meeting new girls and coaches at camps, and continuing to form relationships with those people through other camps and meets. It helps make the experience so much fun when you are around people you know and new people you can meet and connect with !
Biggest Accomplishment in Gymnastics so far? My biggest accomplishment would have to be scoring a 9.350 at Level 9 Eastern Nationals. As I have mentioned bars is not my strongest event, and being able to score a 9 is difficult for me. I just remember hitting that routine and giving my coach the biggest high five. I was so proud of myself to be able to show up and hit my bar routine under pressure and a bigger stage.
What was the 1st thing you did when you were able to get back into the gym? The first thing I did when I got back to the gym was go and hug the equipment and take a deep breath of the gym air. It was so nice to finally be in the gym back with the people I love. I remember thinking, “I will never take this stinky gym smell for granted .” It is crazy how big of an impact gymnastics can have on your life.
Talk about returning to training post COVID, being out for so long (how long?) The struggles, successes, how long it took to get skills back and how it was adjusting to our new normal. Post COVID was not easy for anyone as we all had our strengths and weaknesses returning. My team was lucky enough to get back into the gym on June first, after being out of the gym for close to three months. Personally I was in good shape coming back, as I did many workouts with my teammates and on my own, so one positive was I was still in shape and the conditioning was not too hard. I was lucky enough to get all my skills back within the first week back from being quarantined, but one thing I did struggle with was my back. Although I was in shape, my body was not used to going full out and my back began to hurt very badly. But after nursing it for about a week I was back to full go.
Most embarrassing meet or training meet? I personally cannot recall any embarrassing meet, but I do remember falling the opposite way on my pirouette on bars at level 8 regionals. After that fall my coach high-fived me as I could not even do that in practice if he tried to bribe me. Although it was nothing embarrassing, it was quite funny seeing the other coaches reacting to our celebration of my fall.
Something you have learned from Gymnastics that you will take with you? I have learned many things through gymnastics, but the main lesson I have learned is if you put in the hardwork and have the dedication you will succeed in whatever you set your mind to. I, along with many gymnasts, have had my fair share of fears in the sport, but I am lucky to say after pushing through them I am able to perform all my skills with ease. During my younger years, I developed a common fear of tumbling backwards on beam, which set me back. But I knew I wanted to be able to learn all of the skills I saw my teammates learning. So I worked hard and did not give up as I was able to push through and persevere through the hard times and accomplish my goal.
Who is your biggest role model? Why? My biggest role model in the gym would have to be my former teammate Katie Butler. Katie has experienced many significant injuries and has had her fair share of fears as well. When I would practice with her I saw her give 100% in every turn she took with no excuse. She worked hard to be the best she would be despite injuries. Katie even tried to compete at a meet with a quite significantly bruised black and blue leg. Although it was not the smartest decision, Katie has taught me to work hard and always give your best effort despite any little achs, pain, or setbacks, because if you really want it, you well get it.
What is something that sets your gym and/or your team part? I personally think my team’s atmosphere and involvement sets us apart from the rest. As a team, we are always there cheering each other on and being there when a teammate needs us. Also during meets we all help set and move mats for one another showing our involvement with one another and our dedication to our team. I love the chemistry my team has and is something I love about competing and practicing with my girls.
What is your role on your Level 10 Team or you role in your gym in general? I personally play a big role in my gym as I am the level 10 Unity Council representative. In the council we mainly discuss any problems going on or anything that needs to be discussed. Any questions my teammates have come to me and I talk to our coaches. Aside from that, all our level 10s are role models to the younger levels. I really enjoy talking to all the younger girls and establishing a relationship with everyone so we all feel like one big team rather than different levels.
Most memorable Gymnastics moment My most memorable gymnastics moment would have to be being an alternate at level 10 Nationals. Although I was not able to compete, I was able to experience what it was like at Nationals to better prepare myself for the coming years. I was blessed with meeting new girls who have come to be my distant friends and creating lifelong memories. During the meet I was able to cheer on my teammates and help move mats and set tables making it easier for the coaches so they can help their gymnasts. Although I was not able to compete, 2019 Level 10 Nationals is definitely one I will never forget.
How would you explain the year 2020 to your future children/grandchildren?I would explain 2020 as a rollercoaster, and we were all just along for the ride. During 2020 there have been many incidents and things that have happened that no one could control. We have all just had to have an optimistic view on everything and make the most of our situations.
What is the most valuable piece of advice or wisdom your coaches have given you? One piece of advice that has continued to stick with me is a quote Mr. Ganim used to tell us, “Be a legend in your own mind.” This has taught me to work towards my goals and be the best version of myself that I know I can be. It teaches me to be satisfied with the hard work I have put into my accomplishments and to do it for myself and my happiness, rather than the approval and praise from others.
How did you stay motivated during your COVID Quarantine time out of the gym? I was able to stay motivated during COVID b y participating in our team zoom calls we would have multiple times a week where we would condition and talk about the upcoming months. I also would enjoy going back and looking at my competition videos and practice videos reminding myself of what I was looking forward to for when we returned back to the gym.
Do you have a nickname? If so what is it? What is the story behind it? I do have a nickname, which is Ken. It does not have a story to it, it is just easier to say Ken vs Kennedy when cheering. It rolls off the tongue better :). One of my former coaches, Mr. Ganim, who sadly passed away, used to call me Seattle as I lived there before moving to Ohio. It was his special thing he had with me , and he was the only person who called me by it.
What really makes you laugh? I usually laugh quite easily as I am a fun outgoing person, but one thing that really makes me laugh are just funny memories or moments that I enjoy with my friends.
If you could have any super power what would it be? Why? If I could have any superpower it would be to read people’s mind. It usually an interesting one, but I always wonder what some people are thinking in their head but will not say out loud.
Bonus Question: Tell us something interesting about yourself………..Something interesting about myself is I also have grown a huge passion for track. I have competed in the Junior Olympics for three years and have most recently placed 6th in the long jump at the Junior Olympics. I have set many highschool records in the past season, which was my first season of highschool track. To conclude, I was blessed with the opportunity of competing in the middle school state meet placing first in long jump and setting a state record !