“D-D made a comment about Kennedi Edney after she landed a vault about how we all open our mouths after we compete because we’re so excited. She said we look like fire-breathing dragons."

- Ashleigh Gnat, 11-time All American

The Story Behind the Hashtag

LSU gymnast Erin Macadaeg draws a fire breathing dragon on a whiteboard in the team locker room earlier this season.

LSU gymnast Erin Macadaeg draws a fire breathing dragon on a whiteboard in the team locker room earlier this season.


No. 2 LSU gymnastics takes its 'fire breathing dragon' season on the road to face No. 6 Kentucky

LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux is famous for her quotations and stock phrases to motivate and inspire her team.

Her gold medal winner?

“Nothing great is ever achieved without enthusiasm,” junior Erin Macadaeg said, recalling the phrase easily from memory.

Of course, this is a team comprised solely of gymnasts from the millennial generation, for whom nothing great is ever achieved without a clever hashtag.

“My freshman year it was ‘One,’ ” Macadaeg said. “Last year it was ‘GoTogether.’ So we were trying to brainstorm a new one.”

This year, LSU’s team hashtag is #DrgnSzn.

Allow them to explain.

Senior gymnast Ashleigh Gnat said it often takes awhile for the season’s theme to coalesce and bubble to the surface.

This year, it took all of two gymnasts into the season’s first rotation, on vault against Georgia on Jan. 6, for the inspiration to come from freshman Kennedi Edney’s stirring 9.95 effort.

“D-D made a comment about Kennedi after she landed a vault,” said Gnat this week as her team prepared for Friday’s 6 p.m. meet at Kentucky. “We all open our mouths after we compete because we’re so excited. She said we look like fire-breathing dragons.

“It’s a mentality. Now it’s a thing between ourselves that we’re fire-breathing dragons, we’re going to go out and dominate no matter what.”

“We were thinking back to how the first week when Kennedi landed her first vault she said this ‘fire-breathing dragon’ just came out of her,” Macadaeg said. “We had that stick with the team. We were, ‘We like that,’ so we turned that into Dragon Season.

“So our new hashtag is #DrgnSzn.”

On the Chinese calendar, it won’t be the Year of the Dragon again until 2024. But with apologies to the ancient ways, the LSU gymnastics team decided to move things forward just a bit.

Before one of the meets, someone snapped a photo of Macadaeg drawing a fire-breathing dragon on a white board in the team locker room.

Sophomore Lexie Priessman said the theme fits this team’s personality quite well.

“Absolutely. Every day we’re in here motivated and ready to go to get better each week,” Priessman said. “We know what’s expected. Kennedi stuck that first vault and D-D said that and it’s stuck with our team ever since.”

Another of Breaux’s other stock phrases is about her team staying in the Purple Zone when they compete. That means focus, intensity, and blocking out everything around them, including the other team.

“Usually when we go to meets we won’t be paying attention to the other team. We’ll forget they’re there because we’re so into each other,” Macadaeg said.

That may be a little harder to do against the Wildcats, who will lure the Tigers inside ancient Memorial Gymnasium and try to spring a season-defining upset.

While LSU (3-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) has bounced between No. 1 and No. 2 in 2017’s early score average-based rankings (the Tigers are currently at 197.625), the Wildcats aren’t far behind.

Kentucky (2-1, 1-1) is ranked sixth with a season average of 196.375, coming off a program-record score of 197.100 in a home win last Friday over Auburn. Led by Mollie Korth’s 39.450 in the all-around competition, the Wildcats posted progressively better scores one rotation after another, starting with a 48.925 on vault and winding up with a 49.525 on floor.

“They’ve got some impressive individual scores and team rankings that are pretty close to some of our averages,” Breaux said. “There’s a big target (on LSU). It would make Kentucky’s year for us to go up there and not have a great meet and for them to beat us. The challenge as coaches is to keep us focused and loose. (We’re) one of the best teams in the country, so every time you go out on the floor you have to compete like that.

“What we can’t do is rest on our laurels against a team like this.”

LSU hasn’t posted a score of less than 49.175 in any rotation this season, a hallmark of this team’s exceptional performances and consistency.

That said, Breaux wants her team to know there’s no room for slipups. For the first time, the SEC will award regular season and postseason conference championships. The Tigers would have won the regular-season title the last two years had it been in place, going 7-0 in 2015 and 6-1 in 2016.

“We can win an SEC title if we win our season,” Breaux said. “Everything counts.”

She said this team is focused and driven, well-prepared to live up to the “fire breathing dragons” moniker.

“It fits this team pretty well,” she said. “They’re pretty fierce competitors. They’re pretty vocal about wanting to win and getting the work done and holding each other accountable in a positive way.”



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