Kostka wins USTA nationals in first year of power tumbling

Kayci Woodley

Head to toe perfection, sparkling posture and a flawless landing are just pieces of Kiah Kostka’s tumbling routine. 

Hurling her body down the 85-foot tumble track, keeping her hands on either side of the white center line, and zoning out pressure from the judges make up the rest of her power tumbling adventure.

While keeping up with her eighth grade classes at Orion Middle School, Kostka found time to compete in both divisions of tumbling, United States Tumbling and Trampoline Association (USTA) and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), in 2008-09. 

During her first year as a power tumbler, she won state titles in both divisions prior to USTA?nationals.

The 14-year old Kostka reached her first goal—winning nationals. 

Set out by her coach, Brooke Bennett of Quad City Extreme Athletics, Kostka is now mandated to move up a level to sub-advanced, after competing this year as an intermediate.

She has a two-year contract with the Amateur Athletic Union. 

While power tumbling is not yet an Olympic sport, participants compete internationally at the Elite level. 

Similar to gymnastics, power tumbling involves precision and poise. Tumbling can be compared to the floor routines gymnasts perform in one of their four events. With tumbling, athletes can focus on perfecting just one event.

“I think it’s just a big accomplishment and it means that I’ll be moving up to the next level,” Kostka said after being asked what winning nationals in Amarillo, Texas, on June 18 meant to her.

Out of 36 competitors, ages 13 and 14, Kostka placed first with scores of 9.1, 9.3, 8.9 and 9.1.

Kostka starts her routine with elements of the highest difficulty on both of her passes in competition. Her routine consists of two round-off whips, seven back handsprings and two layouts. While this may seem like another language to some, it comes naturally to her.

Not only does Kostka give herself a challenge by having the highest difficulty, but she has another challenge in adjusting her routine to the tumble track in competition.

Kostka puts on her green, silver and black leotard at a meet and steps onto a tumble track that is nearly 20 feet longer than her actual practice facility. She practices every week in Rock Island, but on an unofficial runway.

“I have to break the routine down into certain parts,” Kostka said. “For this level, I did a completely different pass at the gym than I did for my real pass.”

Even with the challenge of re-working her routines at meets, Kostka was able to win all but one meet this season. In her second meet of the year, Kostka learned that judges dock points for even the slightest form of imperfection. She placed second for the first time all year because she let her bangs hang down from her ponytail.

Although this sport comes down to narrow details, Kostka doesn’t have to engulf herself in tumbling in order to be successful. She can still lead the life of a regular teenager. She enjoys cheerleading, soccer and just hanging out with friends when she isn’t competing.

With gymnastics comes hours of practicing each week and more room for injuries. Focusing on just one event, Kostka doesn’t have that overwhelming amount of pressure.

“The part I like most [about tumbling] is that it’s stress-free,” Kostka said. “And not having to train as much as I did in gymnastics.”

After winning nationals, Kostka is now set to compete in the Junior Olympics from Monday, Aug. 3, through Friday, Aug. 7, in Des Moines, Iowa. Kostka’s goals for the future include moving up to the Elite level, which is the highest level where power tumblers from all age groups compete.