During the calendar year, you always hear about traveling baseball, traveling basketball, traveling volleyball and sports athletes can participate in outside of school.
One people don’t hear too much about is gymnastics.
“I just like it because you get to meet a lot of new people at the meets,” said Madde McKee, who is going to be a senior at La Salle-Peru this fall. “It’s a lot of fun. You get to learn a lot of new things that everyone thinks is cool.
“It’s no different than a travel ball team. It’s just more of a girl thing. It’s a lot of fun. You have all of your little munchkins and then you have the older ones like me. One of my favorite moments is when a kid gets first, runs up to you and gives you a big ole hug and says, ‘Look what I did.’ It’s so much fun because you’ve seen them fall and cry in practice. When they get first, it’s all better.”
McKee is a cheerleader for the Cavaliers and is one of many members of Illinois Valley YMCA Tumbling and Trampoline, which is offered to gymnasts ages 2-17.
The tumbling and trampoline director, Jessica Turczyn (25) has been coaching Illinois Valley girls for the past 10 years and has been tumbling at the YMCA since she was 5.
She is more than happy to share experiences with the athletes as she helps them improve in practices and meets five days a week from the beginning of the tumbling year in August until it ends at the United States Tumbling and Trampoline Nationals (USTA).
“It’s great for the girls to meet kids from other towns,” Turczyn said. “We have kids from Peru, Spring Valley, Utica and everywhere else. Not only do they build friendships in the gym, but they build friendships with other teams. We’re making friends with Fox Valley, Rock Island and Rockford. They kind of have friends all over Illinois. It’s fun to have them make that bond.”
Besides making new friends, tumbling and trampoline is also helping the athletes stay fit and active during months where they could be at home watching TV or playing video games.
“It definitely builds strength and flexibility,” Turczyn said. “A lot of the girls are cheerleaders, basketball players, track and field athletes and volleyball players. They do all of the sports, so they’re in something year round.
“Tumbling will help them with their strength, flexibility and help prevent them from injury in other sports.”
At this year’s USTA Nationals June 17-22 in Charleston, W. Va., the Illinois Valley competition team earned a third-place trophy in the sub-advanced double-mini, which feautred seven team members: McKee, Aidan Harmon, Jaclyn Brucki, Molly Gonzalez, Alecia Hoelscher, Karleen Camenisch and Leah Selquist, who is the goalie for the L-P girls soccer team.
As a whole, the 19-member team brought 57 medals back to the Peru YMCA, including Gonzalez, who was the sub-advanced 13-14 year old national champion for tumbling and Brucki, who was the sub-advanced 15-16 year old national champion for double mini.
“It takes a lot sometimes,” said Brucki, who will be a junior at L-P in the fall and is on the basketball and cheerleading teams. “Sometimes, you don’t want to go to practice. You have to keep going and can’t give up on yourself. Some girls will say, ‘I can’t do this skill, I’m tired of it and am going to take a break.’ You have to come to practice to learn that skill, to get better and to bring trophies home from nationals.
“For double mini, some advanced girls did really good. We brought home a third-place trophy. We worked really hard, we practiced and cheered each other on. Everyone falls sometimes, but we’re all here to bring each other up. Nationals was fun. We had a pizza party while we were there to celebrate making it to nationals. There wasn’t a lot to do, but we were close to the mall and did some shopping.”
Turczyn was excited for the girls at the national competition and is excited for them moving forward.
There is always room to improve in the gym and always more room in the trophy case as individuals or as a team.
“Tumbling and trampoline is kind of an individual sport, but our goal every year is to take home a team trophy,” Turczyn said. “The team trophy is determined by adding up all of our scores and how we rank against all of the other teams.
“Yes, it’s an individual sport but the trophy we took home, we earned as a team. It’s good that the girls get to work together and celebrate as a team, even though it’s an individual sport. They’re in the gym five times a week and also have private lessons.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.