LAKEWOOD RANCH — Heather Park gazed around in awe as gymnasts flipped, spun, twirled and tumbled on the floor around her.
And right there in the middle of it all was her older brother, Connor.
Connor quickly took his spot on the trampoline, bounced a few times and flung himself into the air.
Connor, who had grown up ice skating, became somewhat bored with the sport and decided to attend a summer camp at Kids Supergym about three years ago.
Before long, both Connor and his sister were hooked.
“I saw skater Mark Ladewig do backflips on the ice and I wanted to be able to do that, too,” Connor says. “I came here so I could start doing that, and I just sort of merged the two.”
Connor gravitated toward trampoline, while his sister enjoyed the variety of gymnastics.
“I like the trampoline because you get to jump high on it, and it feels like you’re floating,” Connor says. “In ice skating, I would get bored, but with trampoline, there’s always something new.”
Both Connor, 13, and Heather, 9, spent the past year focusing on improving their skills in the hopes of making mobility in time for the 2014 Florida State USA Gymnastics Trampoline and Tumbling State Championship April 12 and April 13, at the Bradenton Convention Center.
The siblings not only competed at a higher level, but were two of 31 Kids Supergym athletes to earn a medal at the state championship.
Connor scored 52.4 to win the trampoline state title for the Level 8 13-and 14-year-old division. It was Connor’s first time competing at Level 8 after only having a month to prepare his routine.
He also scored 49 to win the tumbling state title for Level 6.
“I was quite surprised,” Connor says of winning two state titles.
“For him to go and win both, we were all like, ‘Are you serious?’” coach Russell Bolingbroke says. “We hadn’t worked a lot on tumbling. Our main focus had been on making mobility for trampoline. So, it was nice for him to do well in both.”
Heather finished fourth in tumbling at Level 5, scoring 53.1 in her first tumbling state championship appearance.
“It was hard because there were a lot of people to compete against,” Heather says.
Heather followed up her performance with a ninth place Level 4 all-around finish at the Team Florida AAU State Championship April 26 and April 27, in Daytona Beach.
Heather, who won the all-around at a state qualifier earlier this season, finished fifth on balance beam (8.825), tied for sixth on floor exercise (9.3) and finished 10th on vault (9.225) and bars (8.050) in one of the most difficult divisions.
“I like gymnastics because there are four events,” Heather says. “Floor is my favorite though because you get to do a dance to the music.”
With another competitive season behind them, Connor and Heather returned to the gym to begin training for the next level. Connor recently made Level 9 mobility for trampoline while Heather focuses on learning how to do back tucks.
Connor aspires to reach junior or senior elite status one day.
“It would mean a lot to me because it’s a very high rank,” he says.
In June, the siblings will say goodbye to Kids Supergym and prepare for their next adventure when they move to Dublin, Ohio, with their family.
“We’re going to miss them,” Bolingbroke says. “We hate to see them leave. It’s hard, especially seeing them grow so much, but there are a bunch of nice gyms and clubs where they are going. It’s nice to see them (want to) continue on, and, hopefully, we’ll see them participating with their new club at next year’s regional and national events.”
Although Connor and Heather will no longer be able to train with their coaches, the siblings plan to stay in touch.
“I’m definitely going to miss the coaches,” Connor says. “They are fun and we get to do a lot of fun stuff. We work hard and play hard.”
His sister agreed.
“They’re really nice and they don’t push you too hard or put you in the wrong level,” Heather says.
Kids Supergym Trampoline and Tumbling Medalists
First: Daniel Hartigan, Jacob Matson, Katie Eckstrom, Jamie Grella, Alexander Brown, Ashley Wichern, Abby Burch, Reece Emmons, Andrew Turner and Connor Park
Second: Tylar Stuart
Third: Kaylee Albrecht and Kaitlin Bohan
Fourth: Hannah Coutsolious and Erik Matson
Fifth: Avary Whitehead and Mackenzie Goda
First: Olivia D’Orazio and Connor Park
Second: Sophia D’Orazio, Kolten Rickwa and Callie Gaetano
Third: Jamie Grella and Calyn Dausch
Fourth: Drew Dalabakis, Heather Park and Andrew Turner
Fifth: Abby Burch
Sixth: Anna Valach, Reece Cole and Katherine Stuart
Eighth: Margarita Lopez
Tenth: Kaylee Albrecht
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].