In a gym on a quiet street of Pocatello a group of athletes meet day after day, busily jumping, flipping, and tumbling their way into success in the world of competitive gymnastics. They are also busy bringing home the gold.
Team Revolution is a competitive artistic, trampoline, and tumbling team that competes regionally, nationally, and internationally. Eight members of the team competed at the Flip Fest Competition in Ogden, Utah on January 29th, and all came home champions.
The team won thirteen gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal while competing against twenty-six teams from Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. Every team member won at least one gold medal in their respective events, and team members Mary Calley and Grace Neilsen swept every event they entered, winning three gold medals each. Team members who competed in Ogden are reigning U.S. National Champion Kalon Ludvigson, Olympic Development Team Member Kainoa Park, Ashar Thomas, Bryson Blad, Mary Calley, Aly Whitmer, and Grace Neilsen, all from Pocatello, as well as Rylee Messick from Firth.
Justen Millerbernd, Head Coach of Team Revolution and a former competitive gymnast, has experienced repeated success in his four years of coaching the team. This reporter watched Millerbernd and Assissitant Coach Ludvigson take the team through their paces at a recent practice in Pocatello. Without exception, the team members were skilled, determined, focused, and courteous, taking long tumbling runs at full speed, flipping and twisting in mid-air, doing back-flips off the trampoline, all with the greatest of ease. The young people were working hard, but clearly having a great time doing it.
Millerbernd explained how gymnastics has given his team members more than just physical fitness. “Gymnastics helps the kids to learn discipline and to set goals, and achieving your goals is the best feeling in the world. That transfers to other areas of their lives, like school, and when they achieve their goals there too, it feels just as good.
Team Revolution has members from 5 years old to 24 years old, so their skill levels and body types vary significantly. “The hardest thing about coaching,” said Millerbernd, “is developing a personal relationship with each team member, and finding the best way to help them achieve what they want. You have to find out what works for them.” Millerbernd also said schooling is a top priority in his coaching strategy. “I don’t allow them to come to the gym if their grades are suffering,” he commented.
Team member Mary Calley won gold medals in tumbling, trampoline, and double min-trampoline in the Ogden competition. She explained why she loves gymnastics. “I think it’s a fun sport. It gives me strength, and inspires me to work hard.” At ten years old her favorite subject is math, and she has plans to continue her gymnastics work. Her goal, she said, is “to do the best I can, and keep going as far as I can go.”
Thirteen-year-old Kainoa Park also won gold in Ogden. Tumbling is her favorite event, and she puts in extra training time everyday. “I would like to go to the World’s (competition) and do well,” she said. As for what she gains from gymnastics, she shared: “It’s the good feeling we get when we do well. It just feels really good.”
Pocatello has it’s own shining star in the field of gymnastics in the form of reigning U.S. National Champion Kalon Ludvigson. Ludvigson is the first American tumbler to set a world record, and he has also won eight U.S. National titles, six World Cup medals, and three World Championship medals.
“There’s a lot of reward in going to the competitions. I enjoy coming into the gym everyday.” His advice for those just starting out in the sport of gymnastics is to keep working hard. “Trust in your coach and never give up. Hard work will pay off.” Ludvigson is a pre-pharmacy student at Idaho State University, but he still plans to continue his participation in gymnastics. “I haven’t set an expiration date on my career as a gymnast,” he said. “I still have goals to fulfill before I’m finished with the sport.”
Ludvigson summed up what can be gained from participating in gymnastics by saying, “You gain fulfillment by accomplishing your goals."