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Crossroads gymnasts tumble to titles

July 21, 2011 at 2:21 a.m.

Kennedy Dudley, 7, of Victoria, demonstrates part of her National-title-winning trampoline routine Wednesday at South Texas Elite Gymnastics. Dudley recently won her third national title on the trampoline and placed third in the double mini competition and seventh in the tumbling competition at Nationals in San Antonio where she competed against gymnasts that were eight, nine and 10-years-old.  ANGELI WRIGHT/AWRIGHT@VICAD.COM

CUERO - Kennedy Dudley walked into the gym without competition in her age bracket. That didn't mean there wasn't competiton to face.

The judges were moving her up a level, to compete against girls two and three years older than her.

Her mother said expectations were low. Kennedy had won the two previous times she had competed at this level, but never against older competition.

"We explained to her that she was going to be in a tougher category, we just wanted her to do her best," said Marise Dudley. "We didn't think she would title. We were just trying to prepare her.

"After speaking with her coach, he said she was competing against herself and to do a clean routine and do her very best."

She looked at her competition, and was intimidated by who she was facing.

"I was a little scared and nervous," Kennedy said.

Then she cracked a meek smile.

"But the practice paid off."

She took first place in the trampoline event against 32 girls at the USA Gymnastics Trampoline and Tumbling National Championships in San Antonio, all older than her, her third overall in the competition.

She was one of three medalists from South Texas Elite Gymnastics here. Chant Parker, 13, and Lauren Parker, 12, each won gold in the synchronized trampoline events.

Chant also made the finals of the double mini and trampoline, eventually finishing sixth.

Also performing well was 7-year-old Karisa Rubio, who took sixth in the trampoline and eighth in the double mini at her first national competition. Seven-year-old Desirae Flessner took third in trampoline and sixth in double mini also.

Gracie Howard of Cuero also finished fifth in the trampoline and Haley Wendel placed sixth in the same event.

Lauren is currently on hiatus from gymnastics after having surgery for to repair a chipped bone in her arm dislocating her elbow, both injuries she sustained at the end of her routine in San Antonio. She carries her arm around in a giant bandage casing, waiting patiently for it to heal.

She's looking forward to when she can get back to competing.

"After the year's over, you get to learn all these new flips," she said. "It's really exciting."

Then again, the year never really ends for the gymnasts, said the gyms coach, Chad Ganaway.

"It's a big commitment," "During the school year, they are in here for three hours every dat. The upper level kids, Chant and Lauren and Kennedy, they train nine to 12 hours a week.

"There's a lot of dedication and focus that goes into what we do here."

Many gymnasts start young also. Despite being just seven, Kennedy Dudley is no rookie. She has been practicing and competing since she was 3 years old.

But the age group switch was still a surprise to her parents.

"When she went to regionals in Fort Worth, they didn't do it," said Marise Dudley. "But because she's the only seven year old competing at this level, they went ahead and moved her up."

Ganaway said the next six months will be filled with practice for the next round competitions at the start of next year for the younger gymnasts.

Lauren Parker will continue to heal up from her injury, and Chant Parker will be competing in the Canada Cup in Calgary, Alberta, from July 27 to 30.

Lauren Parker qualified to participate in the Canada Cup. The event includes athletes from nine other countries, including Russia, Denmark, Sweden and Argentina.

Chant, though, is just looking to enjoy himself at the competition.

"That's what we're supposed to do," he said. "We're want to have fun, it's not all about beating everyone."



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