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Crossroads gymnasts flip for gold at Junior Olympics

Aug. 3, 2012 at 3:03 a.m.

Desirae Flessner, 8, left, and Karisa Rubio, 8, watch  Kaley Lara during trampoline practice on Wednesday.

Since the "Fab Five" moniker is taken, maybe they wouldn't mind being called the "Five Flyers."

Kaley Lara, Kennedy Dudley, Mackenzie Blain, Desirae Flessner and Karisa Rubio are a quintet of local trampoline gymnasts who recently participated, and brought home success, at the 2012 Tumbling & Trampoline Junior Olympics.

Dudley, 8, tied for first in the trampoline, while her four teammates at the Cuero-based South Texas Elite team all finished in the Top 10 in either the trampoline, or double mini. Lara, 7, also added a seventh place ribbon in the tumbling competition.

"To win one it's really exciting," said Dudley who has won four national titles over the last four years. "You always want to win gold. To win gold, you have to do your best at nationals."

Though Dudley tied for first in the trampoline, an Indiana girl had a higher score in the finals - 31.60 to Dudley's 31.00 - and was awarded first place. Both girls had an 84.90 score over three routines.

The competition was in Long Beach, Calif., last month. The quintet that won ribbons were among 11 athletes coached by Chad Ganaway to qualify.

Kaley, who turned 7 this week, earned three ribbons after finishing fifth in the double mini, seventh in tumbling and eighth on the trampoline. On her July 31 birthday, Kaley learned a back tuck, and she was eager to show it off later in the week.

Desirae and Karisa had Top 10 finishes for the second straight year at a national competition.

Victoria Gymagic also had a several qualifiers, including Reese Stasny and Kimberly Tipton, who placed in the Top 10 in the double mini and trampoline respectively.

According to Federation Internationale de Gymnastique - the governing body of all three forms of gymnastics - in the double-mini gymnasts take a running jump, perform an element on a mini-trampoline, followed by another on a second trampoline, before dismounting.

It might have been Mackenzie's least comfortable discipline heading into the Junior Olympics, but 9-year-old Mackenzie had a "magical" performance to finish fourth. She also was eighth, out of 67 girls, in the trampoline. However, her biggest smiles came as she recalled navigating the double mini.

"I got scared because of all the girls that I was not going to do (well), but I ended up doing very well," Mckenzie said. "I'm usually not very good doing my skills because my tuck jump always messes up."

Their brand of gymnastics is different from the style many saw the U.S. dominate at the 2012 Summer Olympics earlier this week. Artistic gymnastics has been an Olympic sport since the beginning, whereas trampoline gymnastics became part of the games in 2000 at the games in Sydney.

"There are a lot of things about trampoline better than (artistic) gymnastics," Ganaway said. "The one thing I have loved about trampoline is it gives them the ability to do something other than gymnastics, but still compete at a high level."

Ganaway added the gold medal won by the U.S. women's artistic gymnastics team earlier this week was excellent for the sport's exposure, especially in rural areas. Kaley and Karisa are both from Cuero, while Desirae and Mackenzie are from nearby Meyersville.

"It's great for everyone in the gymnastics world," said Ganaway, who occasionally helps Kennedy with the commute from Victoria. "That's the first thing they said in the car (Wednesday) morning. They were glued to it."

Americans have yet to have a similar breakthrough in trampoline gymnastics. But, at the Junior Olympic level, the Crossroads has proven its mettle.

"You can jump. Usually in other sports you jump and hurt yourself," Desirae said. "In this sport, you can still hurt yourself, but you still get to flip."

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