Angela Hatch, Kelly Topp, and Mariah Henninger, an elite women’s group from Livermore, CA are climbing to the top of the acrobatic gymnastics’ podium. The trio trains at Wings USA and is coached by Julie Miller. The Acrobatic Gymnastics program had the opportunity to question the women’s trio on their individual experiences in the sport of acrobatic gymnastics and the group’s goals for the 2005 acrobatic gymnastics season and beyond:
At 13, Mariah Henninger is the trio’s top. She begins her 4th season in Acro and her first-year campaign on the National Team. Mariah started the 2004 season as a level 9 but with the trio tested up to elite. Training elite, Mariah and partners were placed on the National Team, and represented the U.S. at the 2004 World Age Games where the trio placed 4th All-around. Mariah’s favorite skill is 3-high and enjoys the dynamic exercise because, “it comes naturally to me.” Looking to her parents as role models, Mariah aspires to make the Senior National Team in 2005 and strives to win gold at the 2005 National Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships, in Louisville, KY.
Kelly Topp, at 17, starts her 5th year in the sport of acrobatic gymnastics and is the trio’s middle. Focusing on the positive qualities in everyone she meets, Kelly strives to achieve new, realistic goals each year. A two-year National Team member, Kelly loves to dance and enjoys the trio’s combined exercise as it displays the trio’s originality. Kelly’s favorite skill is a Spider (base in needle, middle on neck, top on foot) because the Spider is unique and utilizes each of her teammate’s individual talents. Kelly states that, “being original is very important to me. As a child I loved artistic gymnastics, but as soon as I was exposed to acrobatic gymnastics, I knew that it was the unique twist that I had been looking for.” Her ultimate goal in acro is to strive to be successful at whatever becomes available.
Competing as the base of the trio, Angela Hatch is strength personified. At 17, Angela Hatch has been involved with the sport for 5 years. In her 2nd year of Acro, Angela was in a junior elite trio and made the National Team. This was a huge success story since this was the first junior elite trio to ever be placed on the U.S. Acrobatic Gymnastics Senior National Team. Angela’s favorite skill is a 3-high double straddle and says, “I can’t believe that I am actually doing this skill.” Her most memorable moment in acrobatic gymnastics came when she was selected to represent the USA in the 11-16 SAWAGG Junior World Games. When asked if Angela has a role model, Angela Hatch says, “I don’t have a role model. I believe that you should live to be your own person.”
Mariah Henninger, Kelly Topp, and Angela Hatch completed the 2004 competition season and proved to be one of USA’s up-and-coming acrobatic gymnastics’ trios for 2005. The trio who is currently ranked, 4th All-around, 1st Tempo, and 4th Balance, in the nation, also received the annual award for Most Original Skill, an award that is voted on by the Judges at the Acrobatic Gymnastics National Championships. The trio combines athleticism, discipline and originality to make their routines stand-out from the other competitors.
Mariah, Kelly, and Angela are among many elite trios vying for national and international titles. The trio says,” the most difficult part of competing in acrobatic gymnastics as a women’s trio is the fact that that there are so many women’s trio. To be successful as a women’s trio, you have to be able to overcome the nerves and always compete at your best.” The competitive success, although rewarding, is not the trio’s primary motivation to participate in the sport. Commenting on the benefits of acrobatic gymnastics, the trio says, “the most rewarding part of being in acrobatic gymnastics are the lessons you learn about people and yourself while training, the respect earned as an elite athlete, and being a part of such a unique, exciting and upcoming sport.”
As elite athletes, Mariah, Kelly, and Angela have learned the importance of time management. At various times throughout the year, training hours can range anywhere between 16 to 30 hours per week. In order to train at such a high intensity and for long durations of time, the trio participates in an “early-bird schedule” at their local school. A student in the early-bird program begins class at 7a.m. and ends at 2p.m. Straight from school to the gym, time is of the essence! Homework and studying are completed on the way to the gym or after practice. When questioned in regards to their long-term career goals, it is evident this women’s group successfully balances their academic goals with their athletic dreams. Mariah is focused on attending medical school, Angela plans to study forensic science, and Kelly has her goals set to become a pediatrician. These girls are comprehensive individuals in that they excel as student-athletes.
The sacrifices one must make; this trio is no stranger to the sweat, tears, and frustration involved in becoming the best. A typical practice starts with a one-mile run, conditioning to increase strength and stretching to increase flexibility. Next, the trio “runs” several routines of each exercise before splitting off and focusing on individual skills such as tumbling and choreography. Kelly attributes the trio’s success to, “a strong work-ethic, our ability to work well under pressure and not taking ourselves too seriously – humor and good friendship is what holds any group together in my opinion.”
As the trio continues their journey in hopes to win gold at this year’s National Championships and work towards World Championships in 2006, the trio says, “We focus on making our routines clean and consistent.” When asked to provide advice to other women’s groups, Mariah, Kelly, and Angela advised, “to find each team members strengths and focus your skills around these strengths, have confidence in yourself, and aside from working hard, make sure you have a strong working relationship with your partners. If you desire to progress as a group, it is important to figure out the problems and be willing to make changes. Attitudes make a big difference.”
Good luck Angela, Kelly, and Mariah with your future Acro and career endeavors!