One step short of the tumbling mat cost Tori Fowler a national championship last season. That fateful final pass also resulted in an ankle injury that set the young Red Oak gymnast back while she rehabbed ahead of this year's national meet.

On July 4, Fowler found herself in the exact position and city, only this time she stuck the landing, earning her the title of national champion in the USA Gymnastics level 10 tumbling event.

“It feels really good to know that I am first in the nation because it’s not an opportunity that a lot of people get and I’ve worked really hard to get to that point,” Fowler emphasized.

And while tumbling is great, honestly, Fowler just loves to fly.

“When on the trampoline, I just love the feeling of being able to jump and feel like I’m flying,” the 14-year-old gymnast with Olympic dreams explained. “I love tumbling a lot too. Those are the things I love the most.”

Her passion for the sport started with her friends doing backhand springs on the playground in grade school. A few tumbles and cartwheels later, she convinced her mother that it was time to join Trevino’s Gymnastics School in Red Oak.

She is now six years into her athletic career and dedicates about 15 hours a week in the gym. Fowler often competes twice a month.

After the national championship, she was invited to train at the Elite Development Program Training Camp for trampoline and tumbling.

“She’s playing with the big dogs now. She is in the elite world,” said Jesse Zamarripa, her tumbling coach for the past six years.

While at camp, she will be scouted to potentially join the junior national team for the chance to compete internationally. If her dreams go according to plan, the next step would be making the World Age Group Competition Team.

For Fowler, time spent at camp will allow her to match up against the best and set higher goals. "Everyone who went to the Olympics, they had to go to EDP and go through all of these steps. So, this is the first step for me making it to my goal,” Fowler added.

The season to lead up to this moment, Fowler assured herself of her capabilities and affirmed that her injury would not affect her progression.

She doesn’t always stick her landing; far from it, in fact. Flower does always manage to convert those negative thoughts into fuel for the next jump.

“I do better when I’m mad because I’m telling myself, ‘You can do it,’” she explained.

Confidence in her coaches and self-motivation molded her mind to overcome adverse effects of her injury and the daily fears of gymnastics. Fowler mentally prepares herself regularly to flip upward of 20 feet into the air.

Zamarripa described Fowler as a determined athlete willing to take risks. “Not a lot of stuff holds her back,” he noted. “She likes the challenge; she likes the adrenaline.” He then agreed those attributes are vital to be successful in the sport.

Zamarripa agreed that Fowler came back from her injury stronger and more determined.

“She wanted to win,” Zamarripa said. “She knew she could do it, so she pushed herself. She did a lot better than I thought she would.”

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450