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Catching up with the Freshmen 15: Leah Edmond’s senior season

Catching up with the Freshmen 15: Leah Edmond’s senior season

(UK Athletics)

“Leah Edmond was a major factor for the Wildcats (23-8) all season… And the 6-foot-2 outside hitter is no stranger to Kentucky athletics.”

That’s what I wrote about Leah Edmond, a current senior on the UK volleyball team, four years ago as part of my “Freshmen 15” series. Now, Edmond is four years older and wiser, and she’s continued to be a dominating force for the Wildcats. So far this season, Kentucky boasts a 13-5 overall record (6-1 in conference play) and Edmond has played a massive role in that success. On Oct. 20, she claimed UK’s all-time leading kill record during the team’s sweep over Alabama. Edmond entered the match tied for the No. 1 spot, with 1,737 kills to her name. She delivered a decisive kill just five points into the match, surpassing former Cat Molly Dresibach’s 24-year record.

“It just means a lot. The way my team got excited for me… It was all for them. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere close to that,” Edmond said on the SEC Network’s post-game radio show. “It was really cool to experience that during a game and with my team.”

Edmond praising her teammates following her own successes is nothing new. When asked about her most-prized award or honor she’s collected over her collegiate career (and she’s collected quite a few), she listed off her All-American honors. Sure, that recognition is memorable because it’s a national award only given to a select-few players annually. But that’s not the only reason.

“The success of our team dictates that award as well, so it’s not just a “me” award; it’s a “team” award,” Edmond told KSR. “Without them, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am.”

Another impressive, recent accomplishment? Edmond had her jersey retired at her former high school, Paul Laurence Dunbar, earlier this month. According to the former Bulldog, having her jersey retired was “such a big deal,” especially considering the role that experience eventually had on the rest of her volleyball career.

“It’s been such a blessing to be able to compete here,” Edmond told KSR. “It’s just a huge sense of pride knowing I graduated from here and that I got to represent not only the University of Kentucky, but Lexington as a city… Dunbar and the volleyball community welcomed me with open arms, and I’m happy Lexington has become such a huge part of my volleyball career.”

That was a first for the program, as Edmond served as UK volleyball’s first scholarship player from inside the school’s own city. Out of high school, the Cats’ head coach, Craig Skinner, called Edmond “one of the most explosive athletes we have recruited here at Kentucky,” while Prep Volleyball tabbed her as “the best prospect to ever come out of the Lexington area.”

Four years ago, Edmond told KSR her season and collegiate career goals included winning an SEC Championship as well as making it farther in the NCAA Tournament. Since then, Kentucky has actually brought home not one, but two conference championships, and they’ve advanced to the Elite Eight. Still, she’s not satisfied.

“Going into my final season, I still have the goal to win another SEC championship and to make it farther in tourney,” Edmond told KSR. “We have yet to get over that hill to the Final Four, and that’s something we all still aspire to do.”

While her goals may have stayed pretty much the same, she’s changed in other ways thanks to her four years at the University of Kentucky.

“I think I’ve become more confident and sure of myself. As a freshman, I think I hesitated on and off the court to speak my mind and to be confident in what I think and feel. If I didn’t like how something was going, or the way someone said something to me, or even just giving my opinion when asked, I hesitated,” Edmond said.

“Now, I’m more confident that no matter what, I’m going to speak up because it could help someone else.”

What’s next for the senior Wildcat? For the first time in several years, it looks like she may be living outside of Lexington.

I plan on going overseas to play – that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s such a cool opportunity. Once I’m done playing – I can’t imagine when that might be – I plan on teaching, which is something I very much look forward to. I love working with children and inspiring and growing little minds.”

Whatever Edmond decides to do going forward, it’s clear she’ll have Lexington – and rest of the BBN – standing behind her.

UK Hoops’ Rhyne Howard named to another preseason watch list

UK Hoops’ Rhyne Howard named to another preseason watch list

The awards don’t stop for Kentucky women’s basketball player Rhyne Howard. The incoming sophomore has just been named to the Cheryl Miller Award preseason watch list, which recognizes the top small forwards in women’s NCAA Division I college basketball. Howard is one of just 20 players from across the nation placed on this year’s watch list.

The news comes just one week after Howard was tabbed to the Preseason All-SEC First Team by league media. Last season, she raked in the awards, including unanimous national freshman of the year by espnW, USBWA and WBCA. Other awards included the SEC Freshman of the Year title and the AP SEC Newcomer of the Year honor.

Rhyne Howard named to Cheryl Miller Award Preseason Watch List

I caught up with Howard at the team’s media day Tuesday morning (you can watch my recap for “Hey Kentucky!” here, or read KSR’s Zack Geoghegan’s recap here). I asked Howard about those awards from last season and which ones she hopes to bring home this year. As expected, her team-wide expectations will still come first.

“Leading my team to an SEC championship and further,” Howard began.

However, she also has lofty expectations for herself.

I want to be player of the year, and I think I can do that.”

We won’t know which player will claim the national player of the year title until the end of the season, but we will find out the top-10 finalists for this Cheryl Miller Award in mid-February. In March, the list will be cut to five. Finally, the winner of the award will be presented at The College Basketball Awards on April 10 in Los Angeles.

Kentucky cheerleaders put on a show at Big Blue Madness 2019

All of the hoopla of Big Blue Madness tends to focus on the Kentucky men’s and women’s basketball teams, but the 24-time national champion UK cheerleaders made sure on Friday evening that they earned the Big Blue Nation’s collective attention.

Performing their newest routine for the upcoming season, the cheerleading squad sparked a standing ovation from the crowd following an impressive display of flips and tricks.

If you weren’t there to see it in person or missed it on the SEC Network broadcast, KSR was there to get all the footage.

Take a look below:

And if you missed their title-winning performance back in January to secure the program’s NCAA-leading 24th national championship, check it out below:

The University of Kentucky squad has won UCA’s National College Cheerleading Championship an unprecedented 24 times, taking home the title in 1985, 1987, 1988, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, more than any other Division IA school.

And judging by their Big Blue Madness performance, they are well on their way for another title.

Go Cats.

Sydney McLaughlin advances to the finals of the 2019 IAAF World Championships

Former Kentucky track and field superstar Sydney McLaughlin continues to put on a show in the professional ranks.

This afternoon, McLaughlin took home the women’s 400M hurdles victory in the semifinals of the 2019 IAAF World Championships with a final time of 53.81 seconds.

McLaughlin, who won the 2019 Diamond League trophy back in August, defeated European Champion, Lea Sprunger, despite a season-best time of 54.52 seconds.

“It felt good, I thought today I did a good job preserving my nerves and my energy,” she said in an interview with FloTrack after the victory. “I was just focusing on myself instead of everybody else. Hopefully I can do that again on Friday.”

The women’s 400M hurdle finals will take place on Friday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET. (9:30 p.m. local time) in Doha, Qatar.

At Kentucky, McLaughlin was a Bowerman Award Semifinalist, NCAA Champion (2018 400H), three-time SEC champion (2018 400M indoor, 400H and 4x400M relay), and five-time All-American.

Prior to her career at Kentucky, she competed in the 2016 Olympics, with the Dunellen, N.J. native also expected to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo next summer.

Keep making us proud, Syd.

WATCH: Sydney McLaughlin continues to dominate international competition

Sydney McLaughlin crushed her collegiate competition when she ran for the University of Kentucky, and now the track star is also dominating on the international stage. After one year at UK, McLaughlin turned professional and signed with New Balance last October. Fast forward to today, and the former Wildcat just won her heat at the 2019 IAAF World Championships with the fastest time of the day.

Her official time was quick enough to qualify her for the event’s semi-finals; McLaughlin finished the 400m hurdles heat with a time of 54.45. She was racing against some of the world’s top talent, who are all gathering in Doha, Qatar to compete for international titles. The biennial event is the most prestigious meet the sport has outside of the Olympic Games.

Did she even break a sweat?!

At just 20 years old, the former Cat didn’t even have to race at her highest level in order to qualify for the semi finals; McLaughlin broke the collegiate and NCAA record in the same event in May 2018 when she ran a 52.75.