flips during a recent boys
basketball game. (John Spytek photo)
Before many children are even walking, Valmeyer High School senior cheerleader Chelsey Kipping was tumbling.
She was 11 months old when her mother, Vicki Rednour, a tumbling instructor, started teaching her daughter. And 17 years later, it has helped mold Chelsey into the strong person she is today.
“It scared the heck out of her grandparents. They were not crazy about the idea,” Rednour said. “At 18 months, she busted her lip open doing a tumble… try explaining that to the E.R. doctor.”
What started as tumbling with her mom led Chelsey to gymnastics and also into the world of competitive cheerleading.
Chelsey first started out in gymnastics after a student of her mother’s — who was a gymnast — suggested she come and try out for the Spirits gymnastics team in St. Louis.
She moved over to Barron’s Gymnastics in South County when she was 6. They had just started a competitive cheer program, so Chelsey joined the team and also performed gymnastics for them.
Chelsey competes in about seven meets a year with Barron’s and has traveled all over the country for gymnastics meets. She has traveled to Chicago, Tennessee, Florida, Indiana, Nebraska and South Dakota for meets.
The cheer team has more localized events.
Chelsey enjoys cheerleading and gymnastics equally the same.
“I don’t know if I like either one better,” she said. “They are both so different. I don’t really have a favorite.”
Chelsey is an events specialist in gymnastics, competing in the vault, beam and floor exercises.
In 2008, Chelsey placed second in the state for Barron’s, but the highlight of her gymnastics career came in 2014 when she won the Missouri State Championship on beam and floor.
“That was really exciting to win state,” she said.
Chelsey also held the world record for most consecutive back handsprings from July 2010 until October 2012.
Every year during the Mon-Clair League’s Midsummer Classic in Valmeyer, she would do a fundraiser for Barron’s in which she would perform back handsprings and people would buy chances to guess how many she could do.
After she was finished, the late Mel Patton, who announced the games, would bring her up for an interview and the two became fast friends.
In 2009, Patton told her she should try for the world record. Chelsey told him it was probably going to be her last year of doing the back flips. Tragically, Patton lost his life in an August 2009 crash near Columbia.
During the 2010 Midsummer Classic, there was a tribute planned for Patton, so Chelsey thought a fitting way to honor him would be to try for the recordas he had suggested.
Chelsey started at third base and when she was done, a new record of 32 back handsprings were completed. The record held up for 2.5 years until Miranda Ferguson of Dallas broke her mark with 35.
“I didn’t do it with the intent of the record in mind. It was the last thing Mel had told me to do before he died, so I wanted to do it to honor him,” Chelsey said. “It was all for Mel.”
Chelsey almost saw her cheerleading and gymnastics careers come to an end during her sophomore year due to a severe shoulder injury.
The injury occurred during a cheer routine. She was basing someone and felt her shoulder pop, but still held onto the girl so she would not drop her. Later that year, she started doing the bars in gymnastics and tore the shoulder even more during a routine.
The first doctor Chelsey went to told her that due to the extent of the tear to her labrum, her gymnastics career was over.
But Chelsey, being the determined girl she is, decided to get a second opinion.
That doctor told her: “I can’t promise you miracles, but I will give you a chance.”
It was determined that Chelsey’s labrum was almost severed. Doctors had to put six anchors in her shoulder, and she was told her recovery time would be 12 to 18 months.
Chelsey was back in the gym after only six months, and just one year and one week from the day of the surgery, she won her two Missouri state titles.
“Coming back from that injury like she did is a tribute to her character and her drive and determination,” Rednour said of her daughter. “She puts that into everything she does. It’s what makes her who she is.”
Unfortunately, Chelsey will not get to defend her state titles this year due to a new injury that will take her out of regionals and state. She has torn cartilage in her right knee that will require surgery.
By the time she is healed, the state tournament will be over.
After learning of Chelsey’s latest injury, Lisa Horn, who is a Missouri state gymnastics judge, sent this message to Rednour: “I know Chelsey didn’t want to go out like this. But she is going out on top. Not because of her gymnastics skills. She proved that long ago. She is going out on top because of who she is… pure gold inside and out.”
Chelsey has decided to not pursue gymnastics in college but will continue to do competitive cheer. She has received a scholarship to attend Lindenwood University, where shwill cheer on their all-girl competitive team.
“Lindenwood is getting ready to go to nationals in Florida.
They have a really good program. I have some friends who are there on the team, so I am very excited to be going there,” Chelsey said.
Chelsey’s college choice was not based on cheer versus gymnastics, but more so on school location.
“There was a college in Minnesota that wanted me for gymnastics.
I have worked with the coaches out there since I was 12 but I don’t want to go to Minnesota,” she said. “I don’t want to be that far away from home, so I choose to stay here and do cheer.”
She will not be out of gymnastics altogether, though.
Chelsey has applied to be a teacher at Barron’s, where she will work with the pre-teens while attending Lindenwood.
With the basketball season now over in Valmeyer, so is her cheerleading career with the Pirates.
“I will miss cheering for Valmeyer,” she said. “Our high school team has improved so much. I’m just glad that it all came together my senior year.”
Chelsey’s mother couldn’t be prouder of the young lady she has grown into.
“She has two state titles and held a world record, but she doesn’t understand why people would be interested in her. It’s not a big deal to her,” Rednour said. “She is a pretty remarkable kid.”
Chelsey has a bright future ahead of her. The senior quote she chose is very fitting for where she has been in her life — and what she hopes to accomplish in the future: “Veni Vidi Vici.”
I came. I saw. I conquered.