In February 1985, Mary Lou Retton helped fill the Assembly Center on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge.
That night, a crowd of 14,200 watched her, four other medal winners from the ’84 Olympics and up-and-coming 12-year-old named Kristie Phillips of Baton Rouge at the Mardi Gras Invitational.
Retton figures to be back in Baton Rouge and the Assembly Center often now that her daughter McKenna Kelly, will be enrolling at LSU in the fall. Kelly is the second of Retton’s four daughters with Shannon Kelley, a former Texas quarterback and the assistant head coach and running backs coach at Houston Baptist. The family lives in Houston where McKenna trains at the Stars Gymanstics Center.
McKenna visited Georgia and Missouri on recruiting trips, but she fell in love with LSU.
McKenna shared the all-around championship with Mackenzie Brannan at the Nastia Lukin Cup last year.
“We traveled to five colleges in all,” Mary Lou said. “LSU was the last one, and from the moment we walked on campus, she knew it was home. Of course, it didn’t hurt that LSU finished No. 3 in the nation last year, and they do have a beautiful new facility coming. But I know with D-D there, our daughter is going to be taken care of. That’s the most important thing.”
The 14,200 remains the largest crowd at a gymnastics event in Louisiana. Could Retton’s daughter be a part of the next five-digit crowd at a gymnastics event at LSU? The record for an LSU gymnastics meet at the Assembly Center is 8,574, which was set on March 8, 2013, in a loss to Alabama.
LSU coach D-D Breaux has known Mary Lou since before she became America’s sweetheart. Mary Lou was at the Mardi Gras Invitational in 1984 at the Assembly Center just months before she became iconic.
“We stayed friends,” Breaux said. Recruiting is relationships.
And perhaps Mary Lou can be a good luck charm of sorts.
“D-D’s going to get a national championship soon,” she said. “There’s no doubt about it.”