Epic Athlete | Kennedy Thames

7 years ago I started the sport that I would soon fall in love with. It all started in a small town in South Carolina when I first started cheerleading. When I was ten, I was on the first ever level 1 and 2 team in my town when I had a full and a standing tuck. After that season, I started driving an hour and a half for cheer where I could be on a team that would push me harder as an athlete and further my cheer experience. I competed on a level 3 and 4 team this season while working on harder skills in hopes that I could eventually be on a level 5 team. The following year, I tried out with no hopes of being placed on a level 5 team but my coaches believed in me more than I believed in myself. I was placed on two level 5 teams! I was ecstatic and couldn’t believe that all my hard work had payed off! I worked even harder to better my skills throughout the year and competed my first double at Worlds in 2012.

I kept growing as an athlete and eventually wanted to branch out to my dream team, Rockstar Beatles (Small Coed 5). Within 2 years, I increased the difficulty of my tumbling skills to include full whip doubles, arabians, punchfronts, standing passes through to double, and a standing full. I never gave up and eventually all of my hardwork payed off when I was put on Beatles for the 2014-2015 season. Practices were tough, my coach pushed me and pushed me so by my first competition I was prepared. I was a ball of nerves to say the least. I wanted to make sure I didn’t disappoint anyone especially my teammates and coaches. I knew I had a point to prove and had to live up to the expectations of being a member of Beatles. The season was so great and fun that I decided to tryout again the following year. This team was indescribable and placed 3rd at Worlds. I was so excited because I had never globed at Worlds, but I knew I wanted more. I tried out again then next year and this team was determined for a better outcome. We spent the months leading up to Worlds preparing and training for the tough competition we had to face. We put on two amazing routines and we were so proud of what we had accomplished. We ended up in second place which was better than bronze, but still not gold. After tryouts this year, I am so blessed to be a Beatle again. This team is hungrier than ever for gold. I have never seen a team with more skill, passion and drive to win.

During the summer, I was traveling and tumbling on a spring floor doing a pass that I have had for 4 years when I felt and heard a pop in my knee after landing. After seeing multiple doctors, I got an MRI to see what was going on. The results were something I had never hoped to hear. I had torn my ACL, sprained my MCL and had 3 bone contusions. I knew I had felt pain but never did I imagine the severity of my injury being this. I decided, along with my doctors and physical therapist, to still compete this season and hold off on surgery until after Worlds 2018. Unfortunately, I won’t be allowed to tumble but my doctors feel sure I will be able to stunt for the year. I am truly blessed to have such amazing friends and family to support me as well as the cheer community. The cheer community has been very supportive and uplifting as this time hasn’t been easy for me. I am also very fortunate to have such great teammates that are helping me through this. My team is like my second family and I know I can count on them for everything. I’m so glad I will get to compete with my family once again and share this amazing experience with all of my teammates.

I embody the essence of an Epic Athlete because everyday I am faced with a new challenge that I never give up on. Rather it be dealing with my ACL tear, a hard practice, or a new stunt I always give 100% and set my mind to whatever it is. I have learned that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I hope my story and journey can teach other athletes to believe in themselves. When I was younger, my coaches had faith in me but I was so insecure and didn’t think I was capable of greatness. I never thought I was good enough, but I was wrong. I started off being on a level 1 team in a small town to being on a level 5 team at Rockstar. After I tore my ACL, multiple told me to just quit and give up, but I never did because I knew that I could conquer it. This is being an Epic Athlete: not giving up, pushing through the hard times, always giving 100% and realizing that you are greatness.