They are the area’s highest flying athletes. Propelled by trampolines or spring runways, they perform explosive somersaults as part of complicated routines.
From some angles, frozen in time, they could be mistaken for superheroes.
Five trampoline and tumbling athletes based out of Apex Tumbling & Cheer in Pilot Point have qualified and will compete at the Stars & Stripes Championships in West Palm Beach, Florida, Saturday and Sunday. Julia Parker and Sabella Smith, both of Pilot Point, Alexa Brockett, of Aubrey, Miranda Adams, of Whitesboro, and Garrett Niewinski, of Denton, qualified for the competition.
Tyler Terrell opened Apex in 2011. The 12,000-square-foot gym features 40-foot ceilings and training areas built specifically for tumbling, trampoline and artistic gymnastics. He said he is very proud of his athletes and confident they are ready to perform in West Palm Beach.
“The hard work they have put in to prepare for the competition and their mental toughness is the real reward of going to nationals,” Terrell said. “They’ve already achieved everything that I have hoped for them in this competition just by preparing for it well.”
Trampoline and tumbling events are scored for difficulty and aesthetics. The sport’s governing body, USA Gymnastics, recognizes multiple levels of competition. The Stars & Stripes Championships bring together hundreds of athletes competing in Level 5 through Level 7.
In 2018, Brockett, 13, won the Level 5 trampoline national championship for girls age 11 and 12. Parker, 14, won the Level 6 trampoline national championship for girls age 13 and 14.
Parker has been training at Apex for about seven years. In securing her win last year, she performed a Barani, which consists of a front flip and a 180-degree turn, and a back pike, where she bends her hips and keeps her knees straight and legs together while rotating back, among other difficult aerial maneuvers. This year, she will move up and compete in Level 7.
“I was really nervous last year, and I’m really excited this year,” Parker said. “I love having my teammates and the feeling of competing and moving and learning new skills.”
Also moving up in level, Brockett, 13, has added to the difficulty of her routine by attempting flips on back-to-back skills. She also recently started teaching others as a junior staff member at Apex.
“I would say that once you get going it is not scary,” she said. “Once you start flipping, it’s a really great feeling to be able to do something that a lot of people can’t do.”
Unlike other sports where competitors have multiple chances to score, trampoline athletes have one opportunity to perform their routine. The difference between executing a skill perfectly and having to bail out of your routine can come down to inches. Adams, 14, knows that better than most. A favorite to win a national championship in her age bracket last year, she instead finished near the bottom of the standings. A rough start led her to bail out of her routine.
“It was really disappointing,” Adams said. “It was such a big arena and it was my first time going to nationals. I was really nervous for it.”
The lone male competitor representing Apex at the Stars & Stripes Championships, Niewinski, 13, took time away from trampoline and tried rock climbing before returning to gymnastics last year.
“I feel like this is one of the best ways to get out a lot of my energy,” he said. “I also really like gymnastics because of the thrill and the competition. There wasn’t that in rock climbing. I just like having a long time to prepare and then when it comes time it’s just adrenaline running through your veins.”