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Power Tumblers earn first gold
August 05, 2016 Frank Marquez   

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Courtesy photo Gering’s Kaitlin Bohlman wins the Trampoline Level 5 title at the national championships during the Gymnastics Trampoline and Tumbling competition in Tulsa on July 24.

Kaitlin Bohlman, 15, of Gering, won her first gold medal in Trampoline Level 5 during the 2016 Stars and Stripes Championship for the USA Gymnastics Trampoline and Tumbling program, July 21-24, at The Cox Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Bohlman, also practicing the Double Mini, competes in Trampoline, and Tumbling.

“It was really exciting on the podium,” Bohlman said. “My mom and my brother were there. My coach was really excited; she was like hugging me. This is the second time going to Nationals. I did OK my first year, when we only competed in tumbling. Practice is a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it when you go to competitions.”

The Carpenter Center Power Tumbling team in Terrytown travelled with seven children to nationals held at Tulsa. In its short three-year existence, the team not only produced a champion, it also placed five others in the competition. Tristan Strauch took third place in Mini Level 5, and seventh in Trampoline Level 5; Camry Rowan took fourth place in Tumbling Level 5, and sixth place in Mini Level 6; Kylie Brink was 33rd in Tumbling Level 6 and tied for 17th place in Double Mini Level 5; Natalee Bentley placed 17th in Tumbling Level 5 and tied for 38th in Double Mini Level 5; Berlynn Sanchez was 13th Tumbling Level 5, and 24th in Double Mini Level 5; and Carlee Todd was 24th in Trampoline Level 5, and 31st in Double Mini Level 5.

Bohlman said her journey began 4-5 years ago, though she “isn’t entirely sure” how she got started. She pointed to a time when she bounced on a trampoline in her backyard in Mississippi. “I guess you could say my parents got me into it,” she said. Then she joined the Carpenter Center’s Power Tumbling team nearly four years ago when she moved with her family to Gering.

In her first year at nationals, Bohlman said she “did OK.” Working hard at practice (which she does three to four times a week), this past season, she garnered top honors by doing the same routine as all the other competitors, but doing it better, with enough technique and pizzazz to wow the judges.

The routine, one Bohlman obviously has memorized, consists of a “back tuck, a tuck jump, full turn, straddle jump, airplane, seat drop, half turn, and front tuck,” amazing sounding moves that would make onlookers dizzy. Then it’s a salute to the 3-4 judges, who sit nearby. “It’s a set routine for everyone who competes,” Bohlman said. “In practice, I work on techniques, pointing toes, keeping legs straight and together, and pressing (legs down and arms go up).”

Crediting Head Coach Bobbie (Eskam) Youel, Bohlman said, “She’s an amazing coach. She teaches everything. She doesn’t just coach us in tumbling and gymnastics, she helps with the personal side, too. She’s not just our coach, she’s our friend.”

Youel said, “This is a great honor for our team, and for the Carpenter Center, since we started competing in Trampoline and Double Mini this year.”

Youel, who started the gym at Carpenter Center, passionately thanks its Executive Director Bob Nemnich. “I had a wonderful and great experience with the kids this year. Also, this is our second year traveling to a national competition. We competed over three days with the kids, seeing some of the nation’s best competitors for this sport. Our kids did great, with some of the groups having more than 70 kids to compete against. Our team took top honors, and we crowned our first national champion.”

Last year, the team sent five kids to nationals. One of them took fifth place, and stood on the podium. This past season, 15 kids went to nationals, and next year, 25-30 kids are expected to travel to Tulsa. By sheer numbers, the program has a chance of winning even more titles. Even the $150 entry fee doesn’t deter parents, and seems a small price tag considering the larger investment, that of the possibility of one day competing in the Olympics.

“We first started this program with 60 kids,” Youel said. “So, in many ways, we built the program to what it is. We haven’t slowed down. When school starts, we’ll get a lot of kids back.” And likely, Youel’s understudies will grow to more than 300 kids, which would likely demand an increase in the number of classes she’ll teach. The program’s popularity has grown, essentially by word of mouth. “We have probably been attracting kids who have seen our gymnasts in local parades, a little bit of exposure in the local news, and then know who I am, and who the other coaches are,” Youel said.

Helping the cause, the center also recently added equipment this past season, along with the Double Mini, the center was able to afford a regular trampoline. That’s not all. Last season, a black bed trampoline was provided by an anonymous donor.

Her passion for the sport has deep roots, reliant only on Youel’s first memories. After first being introduced to dance as a toddler, Youel, at 5, got her first taste of the sport of gymnastics and tumbling. Her parents Norm and Erlene Eskam opened and ran the first facility in the area during the ‘70s, calling it the Scotts Bluff School of Gymnastics. Youel said she was so inspired by what her parents gave her throughout her career, that she now loves coaching the more than 240 kids who have joined the program.

The local gymnasts and tumblers are preparing for a season which starts in October. They’ll spend time at Colorado training camp, then attend their first official meet in November. With more to look forward to, as the gymnasts and tumblers improve, so does the Carpenter Center. According to Youel, caretakers of the center have discussed preliminary plans for an adjacent gym and may become witness to something historic.

If the facility does expand within the next few years, dreams of hosting a regional competition may become a reality. Speaking of growth, the gymnastics and tumbling organization gathers no moss, leading to the expansion of Carpenter Center services to the Events Center in Kimball. Youel said she has “passed her inspiration on to her daughter,” who coaches about 70 kids who have joined there.

“How far can you go in the sport?” Youel said. “Well, when the kids reach a certain level, they hand out college scholarships, and there’s the possibility of performing on the world stage with competition in the Olympics. It’s there, but you just don’t see it.”
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