High School Sports

Ocean Springs gymnast fulfills dream, signs with LSU

Sarah Edwards (center) is flanked by her coaches, Cindy Lanier Wallace (left), Amanda Zeigler (right) and a cast of young gymnasts at Lanier's Gymnastics in Gulfport, as she signs her Letter of Intent to compete for the LSU women's gymnastics team.
Sarah Edwards (center) is flanked by her coaches, Cindy Lanier Wallace (left), Amanda Zeigler (right) and a cast of young gymnasts at Lanier's Gymnastics in Gulfport, as she signs her Letter of Intent to compete for the LSU women's gymnastics team. Special to the Sun Herald

Two weeks ago, 18-year-old Sarah Edwards dug up a picture of herself as a 9-year-old in an LSU gymnastic uniform. On Monday, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a Tiger.

Edwards’ keen and sharp gymnastic skills have somersaulted her into a golden opportunity for a gymnastics career at one of the top college programs in the south. She signed her letter of intent Monday to be part of the LSU women’s gymnastics team.

Edwards ceremoniously signed the agreement at Lanier’s Gymnastics in Gulfport, her longtime training site.

“It’s a real dream come true,” the 4-foot-11 Edwards said.

With no high school gymnastics program in Mississippi, she had traveled throughout the southeast region, showcasing her talents in gymnastics tournaments since the age of three.

“It’s just beyond words; it’s something she has been working long and hard for,” said Scott Edwards, Sarah’s father. “She’s had to be very disciplined to accomplish this. For her, it’s a whole lifetime of work.”

Sarah had already reached the maximum Level 10 for a gymnast when she suffered a back injury that took her out of commission during her freshman and sophomore years in high school.

“I had to come back from that,” she said. “But, it’s made me stronger as a gymnast. We didn’t think college might be in the mix, but I stuck with it and we’ve been able to accomplish getting ready for the season.”

Edwards has become perhaps Lanier Gymnastics’ most prized pupil, earning the pride and praise of her coaches.

“She’s a very colorful and dynamic gymnast,” said Cindy Lanier Wallace, owner of the gymnastic school since 1985 and one of Edwards’ coaches. “She’s a fantastic vaulter and tumbler and is what LSU will need. She plans on competing in those two events, then hopefully will compete in the balance beam and uneven bars later on.”

Wallace and Amanda Zeigler, Edwards’ other coach, witnessed her growth over the years and jointly saw that she could be college material.

“Sarah showed at a very young age her potential in gymnastics. She just needed somebody to push her and try to help her reach that potential,” Zeigler said. “Sarah has the ability to pick up speed like not very many people can do, so that really helps her out in the vault. That makes her very powerful, especially for floor tumbling. Her ability to punch out of her lower legs to tumble higher and soar a little higher than everybody else is what kind of sets her apart.”

Edwards holds a 4.0 GPA as a senior at Ocean Springs High School, having taken all advanced placement classes. The multi-faceted student also plays first violin with the Mary C. O’Keefe Youth Symphony and runs on the Ocean Springs High School track team.

Edwards will take a spot on the LSU squad that had their best year ever this past spring, finishing a close second behind Oklahoma for the national championship and having captured an NCAA regional title the last four consecutive years.

“I think that Sarah’s going to really flourish as LSU because I think that training around people her own age is going to be an advantage for her,” Zeigler said. “It’s not common in our area to have Level 10 gymnasts so I think it’s going to really push her to that next step. I’m going to tell her to go out and do what she’s always done, because it’s always worked for her. She’s a smart kid. She’s got a good head on her shoulders and she knows what it takes to go to her top.”

“I’ve met with the girls a couple of weeks ago and they’re great,” Sarah said about her future teammates. “I hope to contribute on having big explosive performances and offer them a strong level of competition. I hope that this would be a great college experience. It’ll be fun.”

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