FORT WORTH, Texas — McKenna Kelley completed her floor routine Saturday night in the corner of the mat closest to the large contingent of LSU fans in the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena.
When she finished, Kelley broke into tears and blew kisses to the crowd.
It looked like a senior gymnast competing in the very last event of her career.
Or was it?
Once again, Kelley left the door open to a possible return in 2020 as a fifth-year senior.
“There’s light peeking through the door,” Kelley said after LSU finished second in the NCAA Championship final.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
Kelley missed the 2018 season after suffering the worst injury of her career, a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, in practice in November 2017.
As she has often, she spoke of the senior class she could depart with: Sarah Finnegan, Lexie Priessman and Julianna Cannamela.
“I’m thinking tonight about the group of girls that I love and I’m thinking about our senior class,” Kelley said. “I’m think about my body. I’m also thinking about what I could do out of this sport and what this sport has given me that I can take out. So I’m really not sure.”
LSU coach D-D Breaux and Kelley's mother, Olympic gymnastics legend Mary Lou Retton, have said they want to give Kelley the space to make her own decision, though Breaux and her coaches would clearly love to have her return.
Kelley’s youngest sister, Emma, is set to enroll in LSU in 2020 but would not be eligible to compete in gymnastics until 2021. McKenna, set to graduate in May, also spoke about LSU in the past tense.
“We made it to our goal,” she said of reaching the final. “We ran up a little short but that just leaves them fuel for next year. It gives them an opportunity to grow.”