Bouncing into nationals

Fort St. John gymnast Heather Smith qualified to compete on the national stage in Calgary later this summer.

If there were a national level award for modesty, North Peace Gymnastics Association gymnast Heather Smith would be in the running.

Instead, Smith will head to Calgary from July 21-25 for another national level competition, the 2015 gymnastics Canadian Championships in Double Mini Trampoline event.

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She qualified for the national competition earlier this month at the B.C. Provincial Championships in Port Moody.

North Peace Gymnastics trampoline and tumbling head coach Jason Wilson explained the young gymnast isn’t one shout from the rooftops about her own ability despite her huge accomplishment.

“She doesn’t like to stand in the spotlight, even though she is very talented in what she does,” Wilson said.

Smith, 15, has been competing in the DMT for the last three years and before that was heavily involved in artistic gymnastics.

The soon to be national level competitor came about her passion for trampoline mostly on a whim.

“It seemed like fun and I just wanted to try it out,” Smith said with a smile.

The DMT is where a gymnast runs towards a trampoline and then performs a series flips and twists, and are then ranked based on difficulty and execution.

“You can do front flips, back flips, you can twist on it, you can do doubles on it,” Smith explained. 

She is now a level 5 trampolinist, and managed to qualify for nationals on May 17 at B.C. Provincials in Port Moody.

What she didn’t know is she actually put forth a national qualifying score on March 15, but her coach decided to see what she could do in Port Moody before breaking the news.

“Level 5 and up you have to hit a certain score at one of the four trials [to qualify for nationals] and technically she hit [that] score at Kamloops, which was second trials,” Wilson said. “I didn’t tell her because I wanted to see her reaction…she did her routines this time [in Port Moody] and qualified to go.”

She finished fifth at the provincial event with a score of 118.4 after her qualifying and final jumps. Smith finished just 5.7 points behind Emily Welsh of DEKA trampoline in Kelowna.

“[Heather] was pretty shocked actually,” Wilson said. “She just kind of stood there and stared at me blankly for a bit. Both her and her father were pretty shocked. She’s been working towards going national throughout this year.”

Smith added that her coach caught her off guard with the news she put up a qualifying score earlier this year, but was happy when she heard the result in Port Moody.

“I was happy that I could go,” she said referring to nationals. “Sort of surprised. I didn’t think I qualified at the first competition but I thought I did at the one I was just at.”

Wilson was also a national level competitor on the trampoline himself four years ago, and has tried to pass on as much information as he can about what to expect to Smith.

“We’ve definitely had conversations about what happens at nationals— what could happen and what can’t happen,” he said.

While Smith has proven she belongs on the national level, the young gymnast understands what it will take to compete with the best in the country.

“I definitely need to work on a few things, I’m not really expecting too much once I get there— Just happy to go,” she said. “I’m trying to learn a few more new skills for when I get there. I need to work on form.”

Getting to the national level has been a quick growth for Smith; her coach noted the improvement in her performance has come mostly with her ability to put aside fear in her routine.

“Obviously practice, but knowing how to drill the positions and ultimately just having the capacity to go for it— removing all that fear and going for it,” Wilson said about how Smith has improved over the last year.

As for next month’s competition, when asked if it had sunk in that she was going to compete nationally, her modesty returned quickly.

“Probably when I’m in the middle of my routine at the competition,” Smith said with a chuckle.

“I am excited; it’s going to be really cool. Just to see how all the other gyms do things differently from all the different places.”

 

sports@ahnfsj.ca

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