LSU Hall of Fame: Wood’s Will to Win

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NOTE: This is the third of five features on the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2006 which will be inducted on July 10, 2006.

By Melissa Stoltz
LSU Sports Information

From 1993-1996 the LSU gymnastics program experienced many “firsts” catapulting it to the success it has reached today. Jennifer Wood, a native of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, accomplished many of these “firsts” during her four years with the Tigers.

It is only fitting that this nine-time All-American, who still holds the Tigers’ school record on the vault, will be inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame on July 10, 2006.

“I am very honored to be inducted into the hall of fame,” said Wood. “To be remembered and supported in this way is very exiting, especially considering the current members and my fellow inductees and what they have accomplished at LSU.”

Wood was born in Edmonton, Alberta where she is currently living; however, she grew up in Calgary Alberta, Canada. She started gymnastics at three and a half years old following in the footsteps of her older sister, who was an All-American at the University of Arizona.

Wood counted on her sister, as well as the rest of her family to be her support system while she developed her gymnastic career.

“My biggest role models my entire life have been my family. I can’t say that there was one person that was there for me my whole entire career,” Wood commented. “There were people who played different roles at different points in my career, from my first competitive coaches, to the coaches that helped me make it to the Olympics and then the coaches at LSU, as well as my teammates along the way. It was definitely a team effort the whole way through.”

Choosing LSU Proves to be a Good Decision

Larissa Lowing, a good friend of Wood’s from her national team experience in Canada, had come to LSU the year before. Wood said that having a friend in Baton Rouge definitely helped her make her decision to come to LSU. She had a good recruiting trip and loved the programs LSU had to offer and the beauty of its campus.

Head coach D-D Breaux said that Wood had a natural talent and coming to LSU enhanced her gymnastics.

“She was very focused on the team,” said Breaux. “She was so naturally talented herself, and having been an Olympian the things that she came to us doing were already excellent.”

Wood arrived on campus in 1993, battled an ankle injury that year and underwent surgery in December.

 “I had surgery in the off-season on my ankle,” Wood said. “My first competition back on the vault. I landed very low, on my face almost, and was carried off the mat.”

“I had fallen for the first time in my life on that vault,” said Wood. “I was not very confident at the time.”

Rebounding with Success

Wood quickly rebounded from her first fall and scored LSU’s first ever perfect 10.0 on the vault the next week against Alabama at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

“When they flashed the 10.0 it was very unexpected, but worth the pain from the week before,” said Wood.

She repeated with 10s in her next two meets giving her three for the season. “I am not sure if anyone can describe the feeling of getting a 10,” Wood explained.

“There was nothing in her world that she couldn’t accomplish,” Breaux commented. “So being able to achieve firsts, like the first 10.0 on vault, was very indicative of her personality and her drive.”

That same year she also set the school record on the uneven bars with a 9.975. Wood’s success was taking off.

In March 1994 she competed in the all-around for the first time and set yet another school record with a 39.575. Only one LSU gymnast has beaten her score since, and that did not come until 2003 when April Burkholder scored a 39.875.

“It makes me feel good that those scores have held up so well,” said Wood. “I have kept up with the athletes that have competed for the team over the last few years and have read all their accomplishments as a team and individually and I can’t believe that my scores have kept up with them.”

Breaux said that Wood and Burkholder possessed the same necessary drive to be a champion. That is why they were so successful as gymnasts.

“Jennifer had to work hard,” Breaux said. “She had to work hard in school, and she came in the gym everyday and she did her assignments and worked hard and enjoyed competition.”

 “Jennifer thrived under the pressure of competition,” Breaux added. “April Burkholder had that same drive, that same competitive nature and that same will to win. That’s what it takes to be a champion.”

Wood’s competitive nature and drive produced unprecedented results for the gymnast.
Yet another first came in 1995 when the former Canadian Olympian was the first Tiger gymnast to win a regional all-around with a score of 39.475, which included a perfect 10.0 on vault.

Wood capped her career at LSU with nine perfect 10s on the vault, clinching the top spot in LSU history. She is among only 10 LSU gymnasts to receive a perfect 10.0 in any event. She also ranks second in the LSU record books with scores of 9.975 on the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise.

“She was so consistent,” said Breaux. “She performed well. She performed at a very high level, but she did that with a consistency that was unwavering.”

Wood is a four-time letter winner, four-time All-SEC and the 1994 SEC uneven bars champion. During her time at LSU Wood was ranked 8th in the country in the all-around competition and No. 1 on the vault. An Advocate reporter at the time referred to her as the “most prolific gymnast in LSU history.”

“I was lucky to have had some individual achievements and they are special to me,” Wood commented. “But I have to say there is one special moment that sticks out in my mind the most. It was the 1995 SEC Championships where we placed 2nd.”

Wood was quoted in Tiger Rag magazine in 1995 saying, “I would trade all my all-around titles just for the team to win.”

This is representative of her character and commitment to the team over herself.

 

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