Kenna Smith is poised for playoff success.
The sophomore for the Brainerd Warriors gymnastics team earned her best scores of the season at the regular-season finale Friday, Feb. 1, in Fergus Falls.
Smith posted a winning score and personal-best 9.45 on the floor and won the balance beam with a 9.15 to help her team to a season-high 143.125 heading into the Central Lakes Conference Championship and Section 8-2A meets.
"I think a lot of it was we got there and we all had fun right away," Smith said. "It didn't feel stressful. We just got out there. We had fun and we did what we knew we needed to do."
Smith placed second to teammate Izzy Olson in the vault with a 9.3. But the varsity veteran only needed one pass.
"She has had some ankle problems the last couple of years so if her first vault ends up being good we only let her do one vault," Warriors head coach Tessa Poorker said. "Just because, why risk the second one if you only need one score? At Fergus, she only did one vault and both judges came up with a 9.3 out of a 9.6 judge value, so we were really pleased with that."
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- Sport: Gymnastics
- Events: Vault, balance beam, floor
- Year: Sophomore
- Age: 16
- Height: 5-foot-5
- Career highlight: Scoring a 9.45 on the floor exercise at Fergus Falls
- Favorite class: Interior design
- Favorite food: Elk
- Favorite movie: "Titanic"
- Favorite TV show: "Glee"
- Favorite app: Snapchat
- Favorite restaurant: D. Michael B's Bar and Grill in Albertville
- Future plans: Attend college, participate in gymnastics study interior design
- Favorite athlete: Shawn Johnson
- Parents: Alisha and Josh Smith
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Smith's big score came on floor, where the combination of power and poise sealed the deal for her.
"My first pass it has a bonus skill level to it that gets the score up there," Smith said. "Then it's just cleaning it up and all of the little things.
"I took out one turn and some dancy thing and put some jumps in, but that's all I really changed."
Poorker told Smith to finish like an Olympian and that's what she did. One judge flashed a 9.5 for Smith's efforts, which was Brainerd's highest score of the season.
On beam, Smith has tweaked her connections and made her routine smoother and more graceful. She still attacks the beam with aggression, however.
"I just really worked on simplifying my routine and kind of not focusing on big skill level," Smith said. "It was more about cleaning everything up-pointed toes, straight legs and stuff like that.
"I used to hate beam. It was one of my least favorites because it's really scary. You kind of get used to it. You just have to get it out of your head. Your body knows where it's going to land. Your feet aren't going to miss so you just kind of have to get used it."
Poorker said Smith has the ability to attack each skill while still maintaining good poise and body control
"Kenna just goes after each skill," Poorker said. "There is no doubt when she does it. Even if it does end up where she falls or something, it still is completed well and she doesn't let it get to her. She finishes her routine strong. Her confidence and lack of doubt when she's up there are what make her a good beamer.
"That's how she performs on all of her routines. Beam is a little tougher because you want to be aggressive, but you also need to be calm because it's so skinny. You have to be poised, unlike on the floor when you can go all out."
Confidence was key for Smith, who missed almost all of her freshman season because of an elbow injury. She knew she was ready for the season last fall, but Poorker said the skills didn't return as quickly as Smith hoped.
They might be back at the perfect time.
"If she does the floor routine she did last Friday, she makes it to state," Poorker said. "She looked like she was having fun and was relaxed and was in the moment. If she performs like that, her routine is a showstopper and would definitely be state material.
"If you stick a beam routine at the section meet it's almost whichever judge scores higher gets to go. If we can just have her stick her beam routine, she could punch her ticket there, too."
One of Smith's goals this season was to display consistency and hit 9s all season. Her other goal was to advance to state, but as a team.
"With our skill level, we can go huge at sections," Smith said. "We host, so the adrenaline is kicking in where we are realizing we can do it. We just really want to go to state and that's what we're shooting for."
Her long-term goal is to compete as a college gymnast. While she doesn't remember when she started with the sport, she wants to leave her mark on it.
"I just remember my mom taking my sister and me and she said she was going to sign us up for gymnastics," Smith said. "That's all I remember. I just really enjoy the sport and want to keep moving forward with it."
Other notable performances
• Brandon Niefert, Alpine skiing, finished second in the Warrior Invite at Mount Ski Gull.
• Erin Hoelzel, Alpine skiing, finished second in the Warrior Invite at Mount Ski Gull.
• Matt Allord, floor hockey, finished with three goals and three assists against Anoka-Hennepin.
• Spencer Thompson, floor hockey, finished with two goals and three assists against Anoka-Hennepin.
• Izzy Olson, gymnastics, won the vault and bars against Fergus Falls.
• Brenna Deason, gymnastics, won the all-around against Fergus Falls.
• Owen Davis, basketball, scored 24 points against Sartell and 21 against Wayzata.
• Joey Sauer, basketball, scored 23 points against Sartell and 34 against Wayzata.
• Riley Andres, boys hockey, tallied two goals against Rocori.