Erin Jauch might not seem old enough at 18 to be considered a seasoned veteran. She’s only a year removed from her high school graduation and still feels like her competitive tumbling and trampoline career is just getting off the ground.
Yet, Jauch has held down a roster spot on the United States’ world team for almost five years, traveling the globe in pursuit of a world championship in a sport that remains a mystery to most.
Alyssa Long follows the same trek. She competed in her first international event at 16 in England, where she discovered that there just might be room for her in a tightly contested competitive field where only a few reach an elite level.
Jauch and Long were named to the U.S. Tumbling and Trampoline national team roster this month, each qualifying in the double mini trampoline event. Jauch, who graduated from Crystal Lake Central in 2012, and Long, a junior at McHenry, will compete at the senior and junior levels, respectively, Aug. 29 in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Both now are only one step away from clinching one of four spots on their respective teams for November’s world championships in Bulgaria.
Reaching such levels, though, is more difficult than it might seem. The double mini trampoline is an endeavor that requires long hours of training, preparing athletes to develop consistency to try to compile a perfect routine in an event that starts in a dead sprint and that requires a couple of precise bounces on a pair of mini trampolines to try to achieve a steady dismount.
In the past year, Jauch and Long have become friends and international training partners, building off one another to help reach their individual goals. For Jauch, the role of mentor is one she relishes.
“Eventually, my time is going to run out – I don’t think anytime soon – and so if I can help the girls who look up to me now, that’s what I want to do,” she said.
“I like having that experience and I can pass it along and say, ‘It’s going to be OK. I’ve had the worst and I’ve had the best with losing and winning,’ so I feel like I can help the younger girls out.”
By now, both Jauch and Long know what to expect from competitions. Jauch remembers her first international outing when she traveled to England as a 14-year-old.
The memories of how nervous she was still are fresh. The environment was so unknown and overwhelming, introducing Jauch to a level of pressure she hadn’t felt before.
“I thought it was my one shot at fame, so that was really scary,” said Jauch, who has traveled to Russia, France, England and Portugal during her competitive career.
When the competition didn’t end well, the experience motivated her, pushing her to return the next year. In 2010, Jauch captured a world age division title in France, setting her up for the success she has found since.
Long, meanwhile, thrived in her first international competition two years ago in England. But after reaching the finals in the double-trampoline, things fell apart, leaving her short of her expectations.
But like Jauch, Long wouldn’t give up on her dreams of tackling the world.
Last year, she participated in an international invitational tournament in Portugal, where she started traveling and training with Jauch. Despite training at 5-Star Tumbling and Trampoline in Wauconda while Jauch trains at Fox Valley Tumbling and Trampoline in McHenry, the two leaned on one another. Again, Jauch took the lead, calming Long’s nerves before a routine, allowing Long to proceed with confidence.
“It definitely helps, because she’s been there,” Long said. “So I know I can go to her and talk to her and that she’s going to help me any way she can.”
At next month’s competition in Florida, Jauch and Long each will compete for one of four open spots for the right to travel to Bulgaria this fall. While they’ll participate in separate competitions, the two friends will enter the event with the same motivation – to expand their travel experiences while also getting the chance to represent the country.
It’s an honor both hold close to their hearts, calling seeing “USA” stitched in silver on their sparkly blue leotards empowering.
“There are only four of us who are representing our sport and the U.S. (in Bulgaria),” Jauch said, “so it feels really good to be doing something to be representing our country in a positive way.”