LSU released the finale of their 2023 gymnastics docuseries “The Climb” Friday and capped it off with a special announcement. Kiya Johnson, Kai Rivers and Alyona Shchennikova announced they were taking a fifth year and Cammy Hall announced she was taking a sixth. Kai and Alyona are making use of their Covid redshirt while Kiya and Cammy are using a medical redshirt in order to take their extra years.
Cammy was a transfer from Utah who fit into the team immediately upon arriving, but she suffered an Achilles tear the day before she left for Thanksgiving break, her second in her five-year college career after tearing the other one her freshman season. She couldn’t dream of leaving LSU without getting the opportunity to compete for her new home fans.
Kiya tore her Achilles on the punch going into her double pike at the Kentucky meet, something coaches and fans had feared could happen because she tore her other Achilles before she enrolled at LSU. She did a fantastic job stepping into a new leadership role and inspired the team to keep pushing through everything.
Alyona returned because she felt like she hadn’t finished a full career. She said she felt like she’d only competed three seasons because Covid cut her freshman season short. Cammy, Kiya and Alyona were expected to announce their returns, but Kai’s announcement was a huge surprise. Kai’s been through it all with an injury in each season at LSU. She tore her Achilles in a freak accident on her double layout on floor while warming up before the Purple and Gold Podium Challenge and everything she’d said since indicated that she had accepted her career was over. Her plan was to stick around the team next season as a manager, but at some point, she decided she wanted to compete, instead.
Seniors Lexi Nibbs, Maddie Rau and Kamryn Ryan will not be back for next season.
This means that LSU is the only 2023 Four on the Floor team that returns all 24 routines and will be a massive favorite entering 2024. Kiya will return to her spot in the all-around, Alyona will remain a mainstay on bars and floor and Kai will be back on beam. LSU is also bringing in a loaded freshman class with five-star Kylie Coen and four-star Amari Drayton set to add more talent to the roster. As if that wasn’t enough, freshman Annie Beard is recovering from shoulder surgery. If she heals and gets to where she can be, she will be a crucial member of the beam rotation because she’s considered one of the best on that event in her class. To quote KJ Johnson from that final episode, “We competed at nationals with half our team on crutches, just imagine what we’re gonna do next year when we fully heal. That’s intimidating, bro.”