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.”