First flips at finals

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:45 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
Top to bottom, Jensyn Echtermach, Callie Runyan and coach Heather Nowack practice a trio routine at the Hearnes Fieldhouse.

COLUMBIA —After nearly a year of practice and preparation, the Columbia Acro and Tumbling Team is competing this week in the Acrobatic Gymnastics Junior Olympic National Championships in Palm Springs, Calif.

The athletes began practicing last August for several competitions throughout the year, leading up to nationals at the end of the season.


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For Carly Lancaster and many of the athletes, it is the first time competing at nationals.

“I’m nervous, but I think we’ll do good,” Lancaster said. “It’s tougher because there’s more pressure on you than at other meets.”

Lancaster and teammates Allison Good and Julie Runyan are facing the most pressure because they are expected to be one of the best trios at their level. They won a gold medal on May 20 at the regional competition in O’Fallon. Runyan, who has been to nationals before, says she is excited, but she is concerned about the judges being harsh on them.

“The judges (at nationals) are tougher and stricter,” she said. “They expect more from you.”

CATT co-coach Jim Zepp said he is eager to see the trio perform.

“They have proven themselves,” he said. “I’m anxious to see how their nerves hold up at nationals.”

Good is also competing in a pairs competition with Chelsea Deters. Unlike other pairs on the team and around the country, they were put together halfway through the season.

“They’re really impressive,” co-coach Katie Hurrelmeyer said. “They’ve worked really hard and put the routine together quickly. They had half the time to practice and have taken extra practice in order to be ready for nationals.”

Although there is a lot of excitement and pressure to perform well, most of the athletes said they just want to go out and have a good time.

“I really hope we do well, but I really just want to do my best and have fun,” Jenny James said. “When you do your best and have fun, it gives you a new heart. You feel like you’re ready for anything.”

When they’re not practicing, competing or cheering on their teammates, the athletes are doing their best to relax and enjoy their trip to California. Many of the athletes said that they and their families planned on going to the beach, something that couldn’t be done at last year’s competition in Kansas City.

“It’s really exciting,” Deters said. “I’ve never been to California before. This is the longest trip I’ve ever taken.”

With the season winding down, all three co-coaches said they are pleased with the effort their team has given throughout the season.

“They have done great this season,” Hurrelmeyer said. “I am very proud of them.”

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