Tornado anxious to take the mat in inaugural season

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Acrobatics & tumbling meet structure 

BRISTOL, Tenn. – King University has added a number of sports in recent years, and 2014 will mark the inaugural competition of the institution's 25th sport. For the first time in its history, King will field a team in acrobatics and tumbling, a sport that features elements of gymnastics in multiple events to compile a team score. The Tornado are one of 11 collegiate teams to sponsor the sport and will take to the mat for the team's first-ever meet on February 9 at Adrian College.

Former King cheerleading head coach Amber King started the program last year and has the Tornado ready and anxious to finally compete in 2014. "I think for us it's actually going to be very emotional, we've worked really hard," King said. "I think the girls are just excited to get out there and compete, there have been a lot of blood, sweat and tears. We are a family and they're excited to go out there and compete and show everyone what they have been working on."

Coach King's background has a heavy emphasis on cheerleading. An alumna of King University, coach King was a member of the school's first-ever cheerleading squad in 2004. She was the head cheer coach at Newberry College before taking the same position at King, then was named the school's first acrobatics and tumbling coach in October 2012. She also has been an instructor at the Universal Cheerleaders Association and been named a top-25 coach nationally.

"Coming from a cheer background, a lot of the skills we do in acrobatics and tumbling are similar, but the technique is a little more gymnastics," continued King. "For me, I never thought of myself as a typical cheer coach because I tried to focus a lot on technique, but crossing over to this sport has definitely been a step up for me because the sport is so technical. I love the components of execution technique, start values, and I always liked the competitive side of cheer, so being able to constantly be in a competitive mindset has been really exciting for me."

Acrobatics and tumbling is derived from a combination of gymnastics disciplines that shares similarities to competitive cheerleading. The sport does not emphasize any single gymnastics discipline but instead focuses on a skill set that encompasses traits from all areas. Student-athletes perform skills that have a predetermined value and will be judged on their execution of each. Two to four teams can compete at a meet, which includes six events that have varying numbers of heats.

Meets begin with a compulsory event that has four heats worth 10 points each. Acro, pyramid, and toss events follow, which each have three heats worth 10 points apiece. After a halftime period, six tumbling events worth 10 points each take place before the 110-point team event to conclude the event. Each meet has a maximum of 300 team points. The sport is not sponsored by the NCAA but is sanctioned by USA Gymnastics, an announcement that was made last summer and helped the sport continue to gain support and popularity. Participating schools will compete as members of the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association (NCATA), which came into existence in 2011.

Acrobatics and tumbling teams are made up of four positions: base, backbase, top and tumbler. Student-athletes can compete at multiple positions. For the Tornado, Courtney Harris, Stephanie Rhea, Ashlea Frison, Jessie Ritter, Cassidy Davis and Emily Wampler will be the tops while Harris, Frison, Davis, Wampler, Emily Powers and Deanna Coleman will be the tumblers. The base position will be rounded out by Ritter, Davis, Wampler, Coleman, Emily Powers, Mariah Steffey, Mackensey Campbell, Brianna Stanley, Angela Powers and Kara Christian.

King will travel to Michigan compete in its first meet against Adrian College on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. King's first home competition is scheduled for February 16 against Alderson-Broaddus at 3:00 p.m. in the Student Center Complex. The Tornado also host Fairmont State on April 13 in their final tune-up before the NCATA National Championship at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif. April 24-26.

College State Year Founded
Adrian College Michigan 2014
Alderson-Broaddus University West Virginia 2014
Azusa Pacific University California 2011
Baylor University Texas 2011
Fairmont State University West Virginia 2011
Gannon University Pennsylvania 2014
Hawai'i Pacific University Hawaii 2014
King University Tennessee 2014
University of Oregon Oregon 2011
Quinnipiac University Massachusetts 2011
University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth Massachusetts N/A