Kiah Johnson Brings Big Gymnastics to West Chester

Fans who watch a West Chester gymnastics floor rotation this year might get a feeling they forgot to turn off the TV in their living room. But that video game-sounding music isn’t your imagination; it’s the opening bars of freshman Kiah Johnson’s floor routine.

“I loved to play Wii when I was younger, and I still play on the Switch,” she says. “So when they asked me to add [the Mii channel music] to my routine, I said, ‘why not?’”

That floor routine, which is also a medley of Nicki Minaj songs, was a standout event for Johnson at West Chester’s meet Saturday, at which the Golden Rams defeated DIII opponents Springfield and Rhode Island. Johnson earned a 9.700 on the event, which contributed to a season high floor total for the Rams. It was also good enough for fourth place.

Johnson’s unique floor music isn’t the only exciting thing about her gymnastics; she’s known for her powerful tumbling and big skills. In just four meets, she has garnered a score of 9.800 on her big Yurchenko full vault and a tri-meet title on the same event. A high point of Johnson’s gymnastics repertoire (which we’ve raved about before) is her double tuck dismount on beam. It’s an elite-level skill that few collegiate gymnasts attempt. Johnson has yet to break out of the exhibition spot on the event; yesterday, her routine had few mistakes until that dismount, which she stumbled back on. 

However, she remains determined to get the event where it needs to be. “I’m not the best with pressure [on beam] right now, so they’re trying to help me in the gym,” she said. “But I know I won’t be in the lineup until I’m ready.” 

Head coach Barbara Cordova also expressed confidence in Johnson’s abilities. “Our beam lineup is really tight, so it depends on how that looks in the future. But she can be great on the event when she hits.” The team as a whole had a tough rotation on beam yesterday after hitting the past few weeks, so Cordova is focused on polishing the lineup to get it back to competition shape. 

Regardless of whether she cracks the lineup, the Cordova also praised Johnson’s high-level gymnastics and her smooth transition to college from her gym in nearby Philadelphia.

“Kiah is a great teammate and supports everyone around her; she comes from a gym where she was the only level 10 gymnast, so that’s new for her,” Cordova said. “Having the whole team behind her has been a transition, but she’s done well.”

While the teammate aspect is new, Johnson’s approach to gymnastics has remained mostly unchanged since club. “I try to run, jump and see the ground.” However, there’s been a slight adjustment she’s had to make since getting to college. “I listen for ‘Go Rams’ on every landing.”

Article by Katherine Weaver

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