Gymnastics Announces Outstanding Signing Class

LSU Athletics Creative Services
Jake Terry (@LSUjake)
Jake Terry (@LSUjake)
Associate SID

BATON ROUGE – LSU gymnastics head coach D-D Breaux announced the addition of four talented gymnasts as part of an outstanding 2015 signing class on Wednesday.

Breaux, associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Jay Clark, and assistant coach Bob Moore are excited to welcome to the LSU gymnastics family Julianna Cannamela, McKenna Kelley, Lexie Priessman and Kaitlyn Szafranski.

“These four young ladies are all good students and good people. They understand the kind of culture we are continuing to grow, and they have taken that to heart,” Breaux said. “Since they committed to LSU, they have all invested in one another. They text each other every day on a group text; they communicate with each other as if they are already a team for the last year and a half.

“They came here because they want to and believe they are going to win a championship. That’s a great mindset to have. Every one of these kids will tell you part of the reason they chose LSU is because they want to win a championship, and that’s an awesome thing when you put four or five kids together in one class who are on the same page with that goal. It’s pretty powerful.”

Cannamela is a level 10 gymnast from Southeastern Gymnastics in Weddington, N.C., who trains under coaches Ludmilla Shobe and Galina Meliakina.

The daughter of John and Dawn, Cannamela is a four-time Junior Olympic Nationals qualifier. She has captured five event titles at either the state, regional or national level since 2011, and she earned a spot on the JO National Team by finishing second place nationally on bars and third in the all-around at the 2012 JO National Championships.

Most recently she won the bars title, finished second on floor and placed third in the all-around at the 2014 regional on the way to qualifying for JO Nationals for the fourth time in her club career.

“Julianna is an incredibly gifted athlete who probably has as much talent as anybody in the country,” Clark said. “She has had a tremendous amount of success at the JO level and is a very balanced all-arounder. She can do it all – tumble, vault with power – and she has a nice line and a grace to her gymnastics as well.

“We will need to rely on her early in the all-around. Based on what we’re losing from the seniors this year, Julianna will be a key player for us right out of the gate to contribute on every event.”

The daughter of Shannon Kelley and Mary Lou Retton, Kelley is a level 10/elite who trains at Stars Gymnastics under coaches Dan and Ashly Baker.

Kelley has had tremendous success in her club career, including the all-around title at the prestigious 2014 Nastia Liukin Cup, the 2014 JO National Championships floor exercise title and a fifth-place finish in the all-around at the 2013 JO National Championships.

In addition, Kelley captured the vault, bars and all-around titles at the 2014 Texas Prime meet, and she won the all-around crown at the Pikes Peak Cup. She swept all five titles (vault, bars, beam, floor and the all-around) at the California Classic and began training for elite status in June.

“McKenna has had a tremendous surge in her success in the last two years, and she has received outstanding coaching from Dan and Ashly Baker at Stars Gymnastics,” Breaux said. “McKenna is really strong on floor, and that’s probably the event she’s most known for. However, she is also incredibly solid on beam and vault, and she does well on bars.

“If you had to characterize her gymnastics, the first thing that comes to mind is power. She’s a powerful, athletic young lady with loads of personality and leadership qualities that I think we can build a team around. She is very similar to Bugs [Ashleigh Gnat] in terms of what they bring from a personality standpoint.”

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Priessman is a senior international elite gymnast who currently trains at Perfection Gymnastics School under coach Enrique Trabanino. Previously, she trained at Cincinnati Gymnastics under coach Mary Lee Tracy.

The daughter of Kraig and Vickie, Priessman has garnered numerous accolades and accomplishments during her career. She claimed the 2012 Visa (now P&G) Championships all-around title in the junior international division and was a member of the US National Team in 2012.

Priessman captured the floor title at the 2013 Secret U.S. Classic, which followed up outstanding 2011 and 2012 seasons that saw her win the all-around titles at Visa’s (2012), City of Jesolo Trophy (2012) and the Japan Junior International (2011). In addition, Priessman won the vault titles at the 2011 CoverGirl Classic, 2011 Visa Championships, 2011 City of Jesolo Trophy, 2011 Japan Junior International, 2012 Kellogg’s Pacific Rim Championships and 2012 City of Jesolo Trophy.

Priessman played a big role in helping team USA win the gold medal at the 2012 Pacific Rim Championships as she finished second in the all-around in the international competition.

“Lexie has an incredible amount of athleticism and a huge vocabulary of skills. She can do anything: she can flip, she can twist, and everything has big dynamics, loads of power and a nice look to it,” Clark said. “When healthy she’s really the total package. There’s not an event that will be weak for her in college.

“Lexie has a great personality as well. When she was on her visit we jokingly nicknamed her ‘the Mayor of Happyville’ because she’s always laughing, having a good time and seeing the positive in everything. Nothing ever seems to get her down. Even when she has had an injury she always bounces back pretty quickly with her attitude. She’s just a great person, and we’re excited about the opportunity to have her on the team.”

Szafranski is a former elite gymnast who has moved back to level 10 in preparation for competing at LSU. She hails from Orefield, Pa., and is the daughter of Dave and Kim Szafranski.

She trains at Parkettes Gymnastics under coaches Bill and Donna Strauss, Robin Netwall, John Holman and Joe Stallone. In 2014 she qualified for JO Nationals after placing fourth in the all-around at the Region 7 Championships where she also claimed the bars and floor titles and finished third on vault.

Szafranski won titles on bars, floor and the all-around at the 2014 Pennsylvania State Championships, and she placed second on vault and beam. She claimed titles on vault, bars and floor at the 2014 California Classic and also earned the bars crown at both the Hills Maryland Classic and Parkettes Invitational.

“Kaitlyn comes from Parkettes Gymnastics, a very storied club program that has produced many Olympians. Her biggest standout event is probably uneven bars although she is very good on both vault and floor,” Breaux said. “She has a quiet, unassuming personality and is very pliable and coachable. She exhibits the kind of character that you want on our team with the way she conducts herself in her life.

“Kaitlyn will be a great addition in multiple levels – in the community, as a teammate and with her gymnastics. We are excited to have her.”

Cannamela, Kelley, Priessman and Szafranski will enroll at LSU for the 2015-16 academic year, and they will compete as freshmen for the Tigers in the 2016 season.

“They are all incredibly proud to be LSU Tigers, and I am thrilled to have them as part of the LSU family,” Breaux said. “We are building and growing toward a championship, and these wonderful young ladies will be a major part of attaining those goals.”

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