In the Air 1

Four seasons a year, Summer’s in the air. Serious air. Like 15 feet every two seconds. For Summer Koogler, the sport of trampolining has been the vehicle that has helped this Lee’s Summit student athlete to soar.

Maybe it’s her innate ability that sprung up as a 6-year-old gymnast. Maybe it’s her training schedule of three hours after school every night, plus Saturdays. Or maybe it’s that one word that her friends, family, and coach use to describe her — determined.

“Summer is determined and always accomplishes what she sets her mind to,” say her parents Greg and Jacque Koogler. “She always has a smile on her face and a go-for-it attitude.”

As a level 10 trampolinist through USA Gymnastics (USAG), Summer is a nationally ranked champion who has tucked and piked herself into earning multiple state and regional medals. At the Junior Olympic Nationals in 2012 and 2014, she finished third and first, respectively, in synchronized trampoline. This year, she added a third place for individual trampoline and second place for synchronized trampoline. She is also a USAG certified coach and judge and a busy senior at Lee’s Summit High School.

Summer goes straight from school to the gym (Xtreme Gymnastics and Trampoline) where she coaches recreation classes before her trampoline practice from 6-9 every night.

When asked what makes her both ordinary and extraordinary, Summer says that she is an average teenager because she goes to school, does homework, reads, draws, watches Netflix, and has a job. What makes her extraordinary is her dedication to spend another 15-19 hours a week in the gym.

“Summer is very determined and persistent,” says her coach Carl Neidholdt. “She has stayed focused and confident through the natural ups and downs of competing. She has handled success with grace and inspires her teammates. I wish I had 20 more just like her.”

Although trampolining is a year-round discipline for Summer, her competition season is now in full swing. Summer attended the Dallas Cup at the end of January and will go to Kalamazoo, Michigan, this month. Her next immediate goal is to become a Junior Elite in competitive trampolining.

Each competition in trampolining has a qualifying round and a final round. In the qualification round, athletes perform a compulsory and an optional routine. The compulsory routine is predesigned and must contain a set of skills in a certain order, while the optional routines can contain any 10 recognized skills. The three basic positions are tucked, piked and straight.

Summer says that a common misconception about trampolining is that it is overly dangerous: “If you follow the progressions and drills, trampoline is not dangerous. As with most sports, there will be falling and bad days, but those days are necessary to learn.”

Another common misconception is that trampolining is not a competitive sport. “Most people are surprised to learn that trampolining is an Olympic sport and has been since the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. But one disappointment I’ve had to deal with is that trampoline is not recognized by colleges as a college sport, so no scholarships are available outside of USAG. I dealt with this by getting academic scholarships. After I graduate, I plan to go to UMKC to study physical therapy.”

Summer credits her parents, her twin brother, Kyle, and her older sister, Robin, as major players in her success in the sport. She also gives credit to Coach Neidholdt, and her role model, Desiree Baker, an upper-level trampolinist and mentor. “She was always there for us just like I want to be there for my team now.“

Summer Koogler may be leaps and bounds above the norm, but she has a down-to-earth attitude about her sport: “I love trampoline for everything it has taught me, for the friends I have made, and for the sheer joy of flying through the air.”