While most of the nation is burning food on the grill and figuring out which fireworks show to attend, two area gymnastics coaches will take their athletes to California in hopes of earning the title of best in the nation.
Today marks the beginning of the 2012 Junior Olympic National Championships for trampoline and tumbling gymnasts. The competition lasts through July 11 and takes place in Long Beach, Calif.
Raymond Eastepp of Corinth Gymnastics coaches Thomas Eastepp and Jack Fenner. Pilot Point’s Brianne Young and Aubrey’s Brooklin Housden are coached by Tyler Terrell at Pilot Point’s Atex Tumbling.
Both Thomas Eastepp and Housden have qualified for the regional team at nationals, an achievement held in high regard.
To qualify for nationals, athletes must meet the qualifying criteria and score requirements, which vary across the three events — trampoline, tumbling and double mini trampoline.
“The thing is, with tumbling and trampoline, it happens that quick,” Raymond Eastepp said. “It’s very fast and anything can happen. A mistake can cost quite a bit.”
Raymond Eastepp said if his son, Thomas, can hit his marks, he’s got a solid shot to medal. Thomas Eastepp, 18, attends Lewisville High School and has won national championships in tumbling from Level 7 all the way into Level 9. He will compete at Level 10 this year, where he finished sixth last year at nationals.
The highest levels are 11 and 12, with Level 12 being the Olympic level.
Thomas Eastepp said winning his fourth tumbling national championship has been on his mind since last year, and he’s trying to remain focused on executing his tasks. Thomas Eastepp said he aspires to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I think that’s the final goal,” Thomas Eastepp said. “This is just the beginning. Once I take the next step, it will be a lot easier to get there. It’s just a stepping stone.”
Fenner, Thomas Eastepp’s training partner, has been competing in gymnastics since he was 4 years old. Now 16, the Flower Mound High School student is competing at Level 9, and his coach said Fenner has a shot at medaling in tumbling or double mini.
Fenner carries the same hopes as Thomas Eastepp, but he’s content with whatever the outcome may be.
“It’d be cool if I could go into the multinational competitions, but if I can’t, I’d be perfectly fine with staying in the States,” Fenner said.
Terrell, who is coaching Young and Housden this week in Long Beach, is going back to the national championships for the first time since 2008.
“It’ll be exciting for me to go back and see all the folks, but I’m much more excited about being able to bring my own athletes for the first time,” Terrell said.
Housden is only 14 but has competed at nationals since 2005. This year, she is at Level 10 in all three events, and while she is young, she is already looking ahead to the 2016 Olympics.
“She’s actually getting to know some of these Olympic-level people, and seeing what their training is like, and hanging around these girls doing these really, really big skills. It’s really good for her,” Terrell said.
Young, 15, and Housden overcame different injuries in order to reach the national stage. Terrell said Housden’s nomination to the regional all-star team was a pleasant surprise despite ankle problems.
Terrell wants his girls to gain experience and hopes Young and Housden can finish in the top 10 across the board. The coach said the experience gained will help his athletes as they progress through their careers.
“This is just one stop on their path,” Terrell said.
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is bbaby@dentonrc.