Four local athletes were among the five from the 5 Star Elite gym in Wauconda who qualified for the U.S. Trampoline and Tumbling Association National Team.
Qualifying were Analyse Ratkowski, 20, of McHenry on trampoline, Cayla Domagala, a junior at McHenry West, on trampoline, Dylan Bohn, a sophomore at McHenry East, on double mini trampoline, and Nick Baron, a junior at Marian Central, on trampoline and double mini trampoline.
Also qualifying from 5 Star was Katie Sepe, a freshman at Glenbard East, on trampoline.
The five will compete June 17 to 21 at the USTA National Championships in Louisville, Ky. The national team is comprised of 36 athletes in tumbling, trampoline and double mini trampoline based on a point system at qualifying tournaments. 5 Star had the most team members of any gym.
“It’s the highest honor that you can have," 5 Star owner and coach Paulette Konstantaras said. "It’s a big thing."
Konstantaras said she gets kids interested in tumbling and trampoline from a lot of different sports, including gymnastics and even wake boarding.
“We find that kids who are good in vault are very good in double mini trampoline,” Konstantaras said. “For wake boarding, we can hook up ropes to the side wall. It gives them air sense without being behind the boat.”
Another sport that has close ties to trampoline is diving. James Lichtenstein, who competed for 5 Star, got a diving scholarship to Notre Dame out of Stevenson.
“A lot of our double mini kids get diving scholarships,” Konstantaras said. “It carries over in all of those things.”
Konstantaras said boys are especially receptive to the trampoline because it has an element of fear and daring to it. The training at 5 Star gives structure to a seemingly out-of-control sport.
“Boys are really good at trampoline. They don’t care if they fall,” Konstantaras said. “They don’t get hurt because we’re teaching them how to fall correctly.”
The safety factor is a big benefit to parents with rambunctious children.
“We’re getting so many little kids (interested in tumbling and trampoline),” Konstantaras said. “Most of the kids we get, the parents want them to learn safely.”
With five of the 36 national team members coming from 5 Star, Konstantaras said the team’s success is based on a stable teaching system.
“I attribute the success to a certain way of teaching the kids,” Konstantaras said. “We never steer away from it. We’re really consistent.”
Konstantaras also credits the coaching, led by Joe Pierce. Pierce competed with 5 Star before becoming a coach there.
Some of his accomplishments include being an elite level athlete in trampoline, double mini trampoline and tumbling, 10 national championships in power tumbling and being on the USTA National Team at age 8.
“Joe Pierce is just a fantastic coach,” Konstantaras said. “He’s just a really good teacher, and the kids relate to him really well.”
• Rob Smith is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.