She coats her hands with a good dusting of chalk, which will help ensure she won’t fall off the uneven bars. Her feet won’t touch the ground for the next 30 seconds while she’s jumping and gliding from bar to bar.
Spinning in a full circle around the bar three times will give freshman Maddie Kampschroeder the right amount of momentum for her release: a double aerial with a full twist. Maddie tosses her straight and stiff body in a full circle twice through the air as she descends to the ground.
Within seconds, her feet are back on the ground again. She firmly sticks her landing, like she does almost every time.
For now, this release is Maddie’s favorite trick she can perform, but she’s learning new ones every day. Gymnastics is her passion. Maddie is a level 10 gymnast, the highest level a gymnast can reach in the U.S. Junior Olympics program.
Four days a week, Maddie leaves school at the end of sixth hour to go train. She rides in a carpool for the 45-minute drive to Kearney, Mo. so she can condition and practice for four hours at Fusion gym. Her Saturdays are spent training from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Gymnastics started for Maddie 13 years ago when she was one year old in a baby-parent gymnastics class at Emerald City Gym. Her dad, Daryl Kampschroeder, was a gymnast in the eighties and taught gymnastics classes for 15 years.
“[Gymnastics] was what I knew,” Daryl said. “It was just kind of a natural thing [to get her started].”
Each year Maddie grew in age the difficulty of her skills increased too. A back hand spring led to a back tuck which turned into a layout. Practicing with all her spare time improved her bent legs and wobbly landings and turned them into polished routines with pointed, straight legs and perfect landings.
“Practice and practice,” Maddie said. “You just have to keep doing it until you get it right.”
Maddie’s new skills also enabled her to move up levels. The Junior Olympics gymnastics program is divided into 10 levels that girls move up by age and or skill level.
“She was probably nine or 10 when she turned out better than I ever was,” Daryl said. “It’s been cool to see her do stuff I never got to do or was able to do.”
In competitive gymnastics, a gymnast can take two tracks: the elite program leading to the Olympics, or the Junior Olympics program leading to a college scholarship. Up until two years ago, Maddie was on the elite track, but decided to change directions.
The intensive training schedule, only going to school for three hours combined with her two broken feet were what caused Maddie to reevaluate her future in gymnastics. Even though she was no longer on the elite track, Maddie still continued with her training, just at a less demanding pace. Her competition schedule also remained the same.
January marks the beginning of competition season for Maddie every year. Last year she competed in 11 meets and invitations, including the national championship. This year she is set to compete in eight so far.
During competitions, she will launch herself off the vault. She will flip her body into side aerials on the balance beam, prance on the floor and spin around the uneven bars.
“I love competing on floor because you can express yourself, and I love tumbling,” Maddie said
Maddie’s competitions are filled with hugs, catching up with long distance friends and meeting Olympic gymnasts like Gabby Douglas and Shawn Johnson.
Competitions are scored out of 40 points, 10 points for each event. Judges watch over each event, deducting points for any wobbles or shaky landings. For example, a fall is a five tenths deduction.
“It deducts really fast if you fall,” Maddie said. “It’s really hard [to get a perfect score].”
The highest score Kampschroeder has ever received was a 37.6 at regionals last year. As soon as her score was tallied and revealed, Maddie was bubbling with excitement. While she was jumping up and down and clapping her chalk-coated hands, she was not only celebrating her highest score. Maddie was also celebrating her first qualification for the Junior Olympic National Competition.
At the national championship in Minneapolis, she placed 51st all-around in level 10. A rolled ankle during warm-ups and a fall on floor were Maddie’s main reasons for her deductions.
“It’s just such a hard competition,” Maddie said. “Everyone from across the nation is there.”
Competing at nationals also helped her get closer to another one of her long-term goals: a college gymnastics scholarship. In Minneapolis, college scouts from almost every gymnastics program in the country watched Maddie compete.
Although she has not made any commitments to any schools, she has been meeting with representatives from schools like the University of Missouri and Louisiana State University that come to visit her gym. Her favorite school is Oklahoma University.
Walking through the campus marked with large, classical brick buildings, Maddie felt comfortable at the school. This unofficial visit and the accepting coaches put OU up on her list of hopefuls.
For now, she is focusing to continue on qualifying for nationals every year, what she hopes will be the key to a college scholarship. College will mark the continuation of her gymnastics career and her passion.