Abby Ballengee, Anna Ballengee, Ella Grissom and Madi Webster had little time to relax this summer. The four girls, who are coached by Crissy LaFollette, spent countless hours over the summer break in the Tumbling Express gym practicing their tumbling, double-mini and trampoline routines. All of the hard work paid off when the quartet competed in Kansas City, Mo., in the National Championships, where over 2,200 athletes from across the United States competed in the event.
Tumbling competitions use elevated spring runways that allow gymnasts to jump over 10 feet and complete various acrobatic maneuvers. Double-mini, which is a mystery to many outside of the sport, uses a small two-level trampoline. Gymnasts do a short run and then leap onto the two-level trampoline where they will perform an aerial maneuver before dismounting onto a landing mat. During the trampoline competitions, gymnasts can be propelled up to 30 feet in the air before performing single, double and twisted somersaults.
Abby Ballengee, Abby Ballengee and Grissom each competed in the Junior Olympic Division of the championship competition. To qualify that division the two girls had to meet qualifying criteria and scoring requirements that vary by category and event. Gymnasts competing in levels 5 through 10 are ranked by their level of expertise with 10 being the highest of the levels. After Level 10, athletes move to Elite. Levels are also divided up into age groups.
Anna Ballengee and Grissom both competed in Level 8 on the trampoline and double-mini and Level 6 for tumbling.The two girls were also members of the JumpStart National Team and were able to perform in the Grand March. Abby Ballengee competed in Level 6 in tumbling and Level 5 for trampoline and double-mini.
Grissom, 8, said her first trip to Nationals made her a little nervous. “It was really, really fun, scary but super fun,” she said. “All the people were watching and the seats were all full.”
Competing in the 10 and under ago group, Grissom had a nearly perfect first pass on the double-mini, scoring a 9.9 out of 10.
Placing 14th out of over 80 athletes in the 11-12 age group double-mini group was Anna Ballengee. “I felt very proud to be on the JumpStart National Team because I had worked so hard to earn a spot on the team and I was honored to represent my community at the National level,” she said.
“I’m very proud of both of these girls,” said LaFollette. “While they weren’t on the top of the medal stand, they gave a great effort and are determined to learn from their mistakes.”
Abby Ballengee competed in the 9 year-old age group and earned a seventh place medal for trampoline and a fifth place medal for double-mini. “It felt awesome to be on the awards stand,” she said.
Madi Webster, Odon, competed in the Junior Elite division and Junior Elite level. The Elite Division determines both the junior and senior national champions and the top elite trampoline and tumbling gymnasts earn points toward making the junior and senior national teams. This also serves as a selection event for the World Championships and World Age-Group Competition teams.
Webster competed in synchronized trampoline with her partner Maggie Gallagher of World Elite Gymnastics, a gym in Southern California. The duo placed seventh in the competition.
To practice the routines Webster said she and Gallagher time out the routines. “We time the routines with a stopwatch and try to keep them as close to the same time as possible. Right before the competition, we are able to bounce together in person,” said Webster, who also won the double-mini competition and was named to the Senior National Team for both trampoline and double-mini.
For Webster, being named to the prestigious team as a surprise.
“I was shooting for Junior National Team,” she said. “Being named as a Senior made it that much better and fave me a boost of confidence and motivation all in one.”
While in Kansas City, the girls also had a chance to visit an aquarium and the St. Louis Arch.
“These girls work really hard and I love to give them the recognition they deserve,” said LaFollette.