By Anna Rose Johnson
Despite numerous injuries and surgeries over the years, Lexie Priessman has always made courageous comebacks to help propel LSU Gymnastics to the top. In this Q&A, Priessman describes her junior season, reminisces about past competitions and contemplates her future.
Feature Photo by LSU Sports Communications
LSU’s Lexie Priessman knows what it takes to persevere through challenges. Despite numerous injuries and surgeries over the years, Priessman has always made courageous comebacks to help propel her team to the top. During her days on the elite stage, she was always applauded for her effervescent performances, and she continues to bring that sparkling vivacity to her fan-favorite NCAA routines. In this Q&A, Priessman describes her junior season, reminisces about past competitions and contemplates her future.
Inside Gymnastics: How is your training going?
Lexie Priessman: It’s going great. Taking it day by day and trusting the process. The coaches have been amazing helping me manage my body these past three years. There are days I feel like I’ve never had a surgery, and then there are days I wonder how I’m still doing this crazy sport.
Inside: Tell us about your meets so far this season!
Lexie: It’s been an absolutely incredible experience. Every year our team continues to grow in so many ways. This season has been a blast. Competing with 18 girls that truly love each other makes our victories that much more special. We started a little slow this season, but I honestly think it was a good thing. We learned how to handle adversity as a team, and it only helped us gain trust within each other. When a mistake would happen, we knew as a team [that] we needed to pick each other up, because you never know what can happen at a big meet. This season has been so much fun… but boy are we are ready to dominate post-season.
Inside: How is your junior season different than your sophomore season? What are some big takeaways and insights from your junior year?
Lexie: My sophomore year was most definitely a learning year for me. We had a senior class that just led the team with every part of their heart and soul. I looked up to that senior class [Ashleigh Gnat, Sydney Ewing, and Shae Zamardi] in so many ways. They truly did gymnastics for their teammates and for this University. I feel my sophomore year was a year that I learned so much about what college gymnastics [is] truly about. I watched and learned. I saw how those three girls went about their business every day and how they helped the underclassman always feel comfortable.
I then learned why people say ‘Cherish the time spent together.’ I honestly miss training with those girls. Moving into junior year, our senior class has done an incredible job getting this team to where we are now. They are an amazing group of girls with big hearts. I love having a team that doesn’t do gymnastics for their individual success but for the team’s success. Our senior class does everything with pride, passion and a purpose. College gymnastics is a hard adjustment, but I learned from this senior class and last year’s senior class what leadership is all about.
The gymnastics aspect for me this season has been a lot different. Sophomore year I did bars only, and this year I have competed vault, bars, and floor. I’ve just really enjoyed every opportunity I have had out on that floor, and I never take a moment for granted.
Inside: What have been some of the greatest moments of your NCAA career so far?
Lexie: Being [NCAA] runner-up two years in a row and winning the SEC title last year! Those are memories that I will NEVER forget!
Inside: You’ve had so many challenges with injuries and comebacks; could you tell us about your inspirational journey of perseverance to continue competing?
Lexie: Well, I constantly tell myself, ‘Why give up when you’ve worked so hard to get to where you are now?’ We all face adversity in life that has shaped us and molded us into the person we are today. I’ve been through more adversity than I had ever imagined, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’ve had eight surgeries, and I can tell you they have made me who I am today. Starting with a toe surgery, two ankle surgeries, two shoulder labrum repairs, two knee surgeries and a wrist, it’s been one heck of a ride, and I’m stronger because of it. I have a tattoo on my wrist that says ‘Everything happens for a reason’ because I truly believe it. Yes, there were times it became a struggle, and I was very down mentally and emotionally (of course physically also), but I knew that God had a plan all along and that I needed to continue to focus on Him.
I knew in my heart that I have a passion and love for the sport of gymnastics, [and that passion is] way too much to back away from it because of an injury.
No way that [anything] was stopping me from competing at the collegiate level. Sadly, it took away some of my elite dreams, but I’m living my best life with the people I love most here at LSU. I can’t thank these coaches enough for trusting me and having the confidence that I would come back from these setbacks. The coaches and my teammates are the reason I have continued to persevere through the hard times. I love wearing LSU across my chest. There’s no place I would rather be.
Inside: What were some of your favorite moments from elite?
Lexie: My first favorite moment was competing my elite years with my three best friends: Amelia Hundley, Amanda Jetter and Brianna Brown. We went through lots of ups and downs in our elite careers together, [and now we’re] all competing at big universities or already graduated. Those girls have been my rock.
My favorite elite moment was receiving the Women’s Artistic Sportsperson of the Year award [in 2014]. That award meant more to be than any gold medal I’ve ever won. Every competition representing Team USA was a special moment for me. Those are memories that I am forever grateful for. It was so fun traveling to international assignments representing Team USA with girls who all had the same dream.
Inside: What are some of your favorite competition memories from LSU?
Lexie: I could go on and on… but if I had to pick a few, my first one would be my freshman year during Super Six before we went out to compete floor. We had a cat walk led by the one and only McKenna Kelley behind the curtains. We each would take turns pretending to walk down the runway being goofy to stay loose!
Another memory which was during a recent competition was when D-D [Breaux] brought Gracie into the corner I was tumbling into during my routine. As soon as I saw her, it gave me a boost of energy before my last pass. That girl means the world to me.
Inside: Do you think you might continue competing after your NCAA career is over?
Lexie: [Laughing] I tell people as a “joke” that I don’t think I can be done with gymnastics when the time comes. I LOVE this sport so much. I would be lying if I said that it hasn’t crossed my mind to keep training. Right now, I’m 100% invested in college gymnastics and will give it my ALL the rest of this season and next! Time will tell, and my body will tell me if I ever decide to continue.
Inside: What are some of your post-graduation plans? Have you considered becoming a coach?
Lexie: After I graduate, I will most likely move back home to Cincinnati. I want to start coaching somewhere, and I have looked into sports broadcasting. My best friend Amelia and I have always talked about opening up a gym so that could possibly be in our futures one day. I would love to coach gymnastics. I want to be able to not only help girls reach their gymnastics goals, but to teach them what dedication and perseverance are all about.
Inside: What are your goals for the remainder of the season?
Lexie: My goals are to be the best teammate I can be. If that’s standing and cheering on my teammates during their routines or performing myself, I want to do everything to the best of my ability, because this team deserves the best this season. We are so ready for post-season, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this season has in store for us.
On a side note: Thank you everyone for the constant love and support. Y’all are seriously the best!
Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com