Anybody who says that acrobatic gymnastics is not a sport has never seen the Columbia Acro and Tumbling Team practice in the Hearnes Center Fieldhouse.
The 12 athletes, whose ages range from 7 to 24, give up summer nights that could be spent hanging out with friends to practice for the national competition at the end of July in Palm Springs, Calif.
NationalsWHEN: July 19 to 26 WHEN: Palm Springs, Calif. WEB SITE: usa- gymnastics.org/acro
The athletes, some of whom travel from as far away as Jefferson City to practice, say they really don’t mind not being able to see their friends as much as they’d like.
“When I was younger I wanted to hang out with my friends,” Jodi Mountjoy said, “but now I’d rather be here.”
Allison Good echoed her sentiments, saying that practicing on a Friday night can limit her social life, but she says that’s all right with her because she has made friends with her teammates.
But all this practice and sacrifice will not go for naught.
In just over a month, the team will be in Palm Springs competing with the nation’s best acro and tumbling teams. In order to qualify for nationals, the athletes had to get a minimum score of 22 out of 30 from the judges at either the state or regional competition. All the CATT athletes qualified for nationals.
“It’s pretty exciting,” coach and athlete Heather Nowack said. “I’m really proud of our team and all that they have accomplished this year.”
“Teamwork is integral,” said Marty Runyan, father of two girls on the team. “It requires a lot of hard work and dedication. It’s a big commitment for them.”
The team practices two to three times per week, and most of the athletes agree that it takes a lot of work in order to be ready to compete at such a high level.
“It takes a lot of strength and conditioning,” Carly Lancaster said. Her coach and teammate Jim Zapp added that, along with strength and conditioning, success requires good form and flexibility.
Despite all of the hard work and commitment it takes to compete, the athletes really seem to enjoy the sport.
“I like doing moves and having fun with everybody,” 11-year-old Jensyn Echternach said.
Lancaster added that the competition can sometimes get to her.
“I get really nervous before performing,” Lancaster said, “but when it’s time to perform, I just like to show off and have fun.”