What a Week!

Just thought I would attempt to update my blog this afternoon via my iPad while driving through Missouri. We just left Kansas City and are headed for the final stop on our trip, Springfield/Branson. Looking forward to seeing my cousin and meeting her husband and kids. It will be very nice to leave hotel-life and be in a house.

As I’ve mentioned a few times, the reason we have selected the lovely state of Missouri for our family vacation this year was to bring our daughter to Kansas City for the U.S. Championships of Trampoline & Tumbling. It is the Junior Olympics for this sport and falls under the umbrella of USA Gymnastics. In order to compete, athletes need to have fulfilled requirements and attained qualification scores at the state or regional level. But, there are still hundreds to thousands of kids ranging from 6-18+ at this 10 day competition. The kids compete according to the sex, age group, and level – on 3 different apparatus: tumbling (a long “track ” of sorts which is similar to the floor used in gymnastics floor routines), a double-mini trampoline (two small trampolines that are set up similar to a vault that the gymnast runs to then flips off of and needs to try to stick the landing), and, finally, trampoline, which many are familiar with because that event is now actually in the Olympic Games.

Last year I took Erin to Nationals by myself. She was young and, while she had done well at the state level, we had pretty low expectations. When I asked her coach about what to expect results-wise she nicely indicated that there was a ton of competition and that getting on the podium would be unlikely. As soon as I witnessed the opening ceremonies, I realized how many kids were there and that we will just chalk this up as an “experience” and lower any expectations. Well, that is when we realized that Erin might be a little different under the stress of the biggest of events because she put in an amazing routine last summer that shocked us all – scoring very high and ending up with a bronze medal and a trip to the medal ceremony, something we did not expect, at all.

So, this year has been a struggle. She was slow to learn her new routines and frustrations, mostly on my part, started to build. I shared most of them in this blog. It took a trip to Las Vegas just to get her qualified for Nationals but, there again, she delivered under pressure and won the event. I hated how wrapped up I found myself getting over a 9 year old jumping on a trampoline and really worked hard to take my emotions down many notches. Most of my issues were related just to the logistics of planning our summer more than her results, and I was happy to see that other parents in the same boat shared some of my frustrations. Anyway, we arrived in Kansas City and I was in a very good place – completely here to enjoy the experience and support Erin in her success just in getting there. I knew better what to expect and also felt like I could not expect last year’s miraculous results (her coach still uses that tale of Erin as an example of never knowing what to expect at Nationals now). After an afternoon of opening ceremony and another day consumed by training, day 1 of competition finally arrived. There were 9 flights of athletes ranging 7-9 girls each – 77 girls total! Erin did a great job, good landings but a small step on one of them. Her scores put her in 3rd in her group of 9 but 27th overall. Still great to be 27 out of 77. But that night I started questioning, again, why we all came on this trip for that rather uneventful results.

The next morning I was just looking forward to being done with the whole thing. Our plan was to leave from the arena when she was done around 9am and head to the amusement park for the day. We took her to the arena for her last event – the same one, trampoline, that had shocked us last year. Competing as a 9 year old Level 6, she had some very talented competition, including several girls from the US Jumpstart team which is a talent identification program sponsored by USA Gymnastics which helps identify future potential Olympians in the sport – they have trained twice at Bela Karolyi’s ranch in Texas this year as well. Erin’s über-organized coach had made a rare mistake on the schedule though and she was about an hour early for the competition (better than late!) so it took some text messages from the athlete’s holding area back and forth to get her to and from where she needed to be. So, finally, her group came out to warm up and it was show time. Erin’s warm-ups were a little shaky but her 2nd attempt was clean. Her coach had her off on the side lifting her up in the air so she could practice her leg positions while she waited to go on. Finally, it was her turn and, just like last year she pretty much nailed her routine. Her legs were supposed to be together as she came out of her last flip but we were just happy she made it through. Then the score came up on the screens and she moved into first place. We couldn’t believe it. She took first in her group of 9 and then the waiting began as the other groups went. So much for leaving for the amusement park….

Long story and a little drama, Erin ended up holding onto first place…the National Champion!! We could not believe it. She was in shock and very upset that she won because one of her very good teammates had fallen mid-routine. We had to remind her that her friend had had success before and that it was ok to feel badly for her but still be happy that she won too. The medal ceremonies are at the end of each session so we were pretty much stuck in the area for several hours. We got to watch another teammate also win the gold in her age group so that was fun.

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So I just wanted to share the excitement. It has been a very fun few days. We always want our kids to succeed but this was truly not expected. I was honestly just glad she got to Nationals this year. I am so proud of her work ethic this summer to get ready. She learned some huge lessons (and I did too). I’m glad the whole family was together this time to enjoy it.

It has been a great week but I am craving a return to my normal life. I am sick of making poor food choices in the land of southern cooking, barbecue, and hotels. I have tried to eat some salads and fruit when available but I have eaten more than my share of French fries, carbs, dessert, and funnel cake! I have been walking extreme amounts every day and even hit the hotel fitness center quite a few times to run. I am happy that I haven’t let that slip too much. I guess I am glad that I am looking forward to eating better instead of dreading it.

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