With days filled with school work, homework, family time, and just time to be a kid, it sometimes seems like a miracle when an elementary aged child has the time and interest to participate in after school and extra-curricular activities — not to mention dedicating almost every day of the week to practice to make a national team.
Two Perry County gymnastics students from Studios Unlimited Tumbling and Trampoline have earned a spot on the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) National Gymnastics Team and another on the Stars of Tomorrow (SOT).
Vernetta Cole, head coach and owner of Studios Unlimited, said five of her students went to Noblesville, Ind., tried out in February. Madison Campbell, 13, and 9-year-old Michael Jones made the AAU National Team for Intermediate Trampoline, and 10-year-old Grace Epperson made the SOT team for Novice Trampoline, placing first in their event and skill level group.
Cole’s son, Christian Cole, April Miller, and Amber Donaldson coach the kids alongside her. Cole, who has been coaching gymnastics for 34 years and has sent kids to the national teams for the last 10 years, said she couldn’t be more excited for them.
“They were awesome,” Cole said. “They came running to me. They were like, I made it, I made it!”
Cole said there were 30 teams from 11 different states that came to try out for the SOT and AAU National teams. Tryouts for the teams are only held every two years, so in the time leading up to the tryouts her students who wanted to be on the teams worked extra hard.
“Before we tried out for Stars of Tomorrow, we had private [lessons] on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and sometimes Saturdays,” Epperson, who has been involved in gymnastics for six years, said.
Not to mention, Cole added, the regular group practices every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Working this hard is what Cole attributes the success of these students to.
“They’re hard workers; they’re disciplined. They’re here, you know what I mean? They don’t miss, and that’s what it takes. They don’t come in and tumble a couple of hours and go home. They come when I’m not here,” Cole said. “Honestly, if I could coach kids like this all the time it’d make my job a lot easier.”
Cole said even those students who tried out and may not have made the team still did very well. Eight-year-old Sarah Jo Campbell who tried out for the teams for the first time came in second place in her division, something Cole said is still outstanding.
“She did awesome. She scored higher at that meet than she has — ever. But, the thing of it is, the best of the best was there,” Cole said.
Campbell said she wants to try out again and plans to work even harder to make the team in 2015.
Cole said the three who did make it will be going to Detroit in July to perform in the opening ceremony for the AAU Junior Olympic Games.
“They’re a very disciplined group of kids. They all have good grade and they do extra-curricular activities,” Cole added.
Even with the other extra-curricular activities ranging from soccer, to karate, to church, Epperson still want to work to improve her gymnastics skills.
“I think it’s exciting because you get to work on other things and get to move up and get better,” she said.
Gymnasts from Studios Unlimted recorded the following results from the competitions:
- Grace Epperson was named to the Stars of Tomorrow National Team on novice trampoline. She won first place out of 49 competitors in this category.
- Madison Campbell earned a spot on the AAU National Team on Intermediate Trampoline. She first place out of 58 other athletes, and also won a second spot on the AAU National Team in intermedicate tumbling.
- Michael Jones took a spot on the AAU National Team where he won first place on intermediate trampoline.
- Amanda Back competed in the Stars of Tomorrow Team Trials and won second place in tumbling out of 30 competitors.
- Sarah Jo Campbell competed in the Stars of Tomorrow National Team Trials where she won second place on beginner tumbling.
- Jaden Noble also competed at the AAU National Team Trials where she finished fourth out of 58 competitiors on intermediate trampoline.