It was last February, and Jen Kendall returned to the Birmingham YMCA competitive gymnastics team practice.
It had been a year since a knee injury kept her away from competing, and until that day, she feared the injury would become a re-occurring incident and wasn’t positive she could make the commitment.
“I decided I couldn’t stay away from gymnastics. It was a big injury and took a long time to get back,” the soon-to-be senior at Seaholm said. “It did affect my choice, but after being in the sport for so long, it’s hard to stay away.”
Kendall has been in the sport since she was 6, and coach Lori Edwards said the gymnast surpassed her old form when she returned.
“There was a lot of effort on her part to catch up,” Edwards said. “Anyone that has been hurt and trying to get back to something knows, there’s a difference between maintaining where you were and getting better. She did a great job of maintaining when she was injured, and then was able to improve.”
Kendall’s hard work paid off, along with the five other teammates, at the YMCA National Championship June 26-29 in Savannah, Ga.
Kendall was the lone placer, taking eighth on the uneven bars in the Level 8 Senior Division with a score of 8.650.
“I was pretty proud of the fact that I placed eighth,” Kendall said. “That was probably one of my best bar performances of the year.”
Ava Pitser, Emily Rooney, Michelle Confer, Isabelle Cutler and Katie Sullivan also competed in the championship.
Sydney Moosekian qualified, but was unable to compete due to injury.
Edwards and Kendall said they were both happy with the squad’s performance.
“Most of us have done so many meets, it’s gotten to the point where there aren’t nerves, but it’s more of an excitement to go out and show our best and what we worked for the entire year,” Kendall said. “Overall, we did pretty well for ourselves.”
Edwards noted that the team hadn’t competed in more than a month leading up to the competition.
“It has to do more with peaking than anything,” Edwards said. “This year, we had a lot of girls that focused and peaked at the right time, so when we were in the meet, it was some of their best routines of the year.”
Kendall said she believes next year will be even better.
“I have some pretty high expectations, not just for me, but for the whole team. I would love to see everyone place at nationals,” she said. “I want to see everyone improve and push harder for next year.”