By Chris Chaney
Youth sports in Clermont County have prospered greatly this summer with many local athletes earning national acclaim due to their hard work and dedication to their craft. 9-year-old Emma Southall is just the latest to be crowned a national champion as she took home the top honors in the United States Tumbling and Trampoline Association National Championship in late June in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
In just her second year of competing, Emma took home the top spot in the double-mini trampoline sub-advanced girls 8 years old and under with a score of 57.60, edging the second-place competitor by just six tenths of a point.
“(Emma) is 9 now, but she was 8 when the season started, so she competed in the 8-years old and under category,” Emma’s mother, Cindy, explained. “There are several different levels (in the USTA), but she was in the sub-advanced level, which is fairly difficult for her age group, so she didn’t compete against many people all year, so by the time we got to Nationals, there was only one other girl from Tennessee and Emma ended up beating her.”
Emma qualified for the national championships by virtue of finishing in the top-10 at the Ohio state meet, which was held in Gallipolis in April.
For casual gymnastics fans that only see the sport every four years at the Olympics, the double mini category looks similar to the vault. The athlete will get a running start to the springboard and vault, only in the double-mini, instead of a springboard, there is the first trampoline, set an angle so that the competitor can do their first series of airborne tricks, land on a second trampoline and do another series of twists and contortions before landing.
The competitors are scored by two judges who account for difficulty in a 10-point scale and calculate their total by adding up the scores from each athlete’s three attempts.
Emma got into gymnastics, tumbling and trampoline by virtue of being in the gym so often.
“(Emma) has two older sisters who are also gymnasts at Gymnastics Central,” Cindy said. “Her oldest sister is on the tumbling and trampoline team also and her next oldest sister is on the gymnastics team. (Emma) started out in the gymnastics program, but decided she liked tumbling and trampoline better. She had been dragged to the gym enough that she got interested.”
Her interest piqued and her skill inherent, Emma was able to reach the top of her age group within a few years of picking up the sport. With her success, Emma still plans on competing, but by virtue of her winning the sub-advanced division, she is mandated to move up to the advanced division, one below elite, which is as high as the levels go.
Emma’s mother said that having her daughter advance to that level is a “little scary,” and going forward, her passes will require some more difficulty in order to score well against higher competition.
“She plans to continue with and see how far she can get,” Cindy said.
Emma also competed in the other two categories at the Nationals, but didn’t fare as well as her best event. In the trampoline at the intermediate level, one below the sub-advanced level she won in the double mini, Emma finished in sixth place and in tumbling, also at the intermediate level, she finished seventh.