•  Sarah Prosen 11

    Sarah Prosen '11

    Hang Time

    Gymnast Sarah Prosen ’11 competes in World Games.

    A gymnast since the age of six, Sarah Prosen ’11 (Apple Valley, Minnesota) has always aimed high. A 2008 all-American in the floor exercise for Hamline, Prosen’s real specialty is the double mini trampoline -- an event that causes her to bounce 20 feet high and twist and flip through the air. “It’s like diving, except you land on a mat instead of water,” explains Prosen who earned a silver medal in the double mini at the World Games in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, last July.

    The World Games are the highest-level competition for non-Olympic sports such as squash, aikido, and tug of war. While Olympic gymnastics includes an event where contestants perform acrobatics as they bounce on a single trampoline, the double mini is a World Games competition. Unlike a traditional trampoline, the double mini is long and thin, resembling a ramp (it was originally two trampolines, but they are now connected for safety). Gymnasts take a running start, bounce on the first trampoline bed, which is sloped, flip through the air and land on a second, flat trampoline bed. Another bounce and some flips and twists, and they land on a mat -- all within seconds.

    “You have to have a lot of air sense,” says Prosen. “It’s easy to get lost while you’re up there. Generally you spot things so you know where you are and what comes next, but when you get lost you just twist and flip randomly with no idea where you are. It’s the worst feeling in the world.”

    Still, Prosen feels at home in the air, having joined the trampoline team at Gleason’s Gymnastics School in Eagan, Minnesota, when she was 12. “My mom said I could pick between the trampoline team and the artistic team. I watched both practices, and I liked the trampoline team’s leotards better so I joined them,” she says. “The leotards changed colors when the gymnasts moved -- I thought that was super cool.” Prosen caught on quickly, rising to the top of the team and competing at several international meets, including the World Age Group Competition, the World Cup, and the Pan American Games.

    Her training schedule is rigorous. To prepare for the World Games last summer Prosen practiced every day from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and again from 3 to 5 p.m., working with a personal trainer on strength training in between. During the school year she divides her practice time between Gleason’s and the Hamline team.

    “It’s hard. Between the two I practice from 3 to 8:30 p.m. every night and then go home and do my homework ,” she says. “But I could never quit Hamline gymnastics -- I love it. Whereas trampoline is an individual sport, all that matters in regular gymnastics is the team score, which makes us all really close. We’re great at cheering for each other.”

    Trampolining may prove the more lucrative choice, however. “I know a lot of trampolinists who are working for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas,” says Prosen who hopes to join them for a year after college. “Trampoline is a main part of the Cirque du Soleil shows. The trampolinists often bounce over each other or land on each other’s shoulders -- I’ve always wanted to do that.”

    In the meantime Prosen will continue with a biology major and psychology minor at Hamline. Eventually she may pursue a career in physical therapy and coach gymnastics. “I’ve had so much fun with gymnastics, I could see myself coaching a team,” she says. “It would be rewarding to see them succeed.”

    Prosen herself won’t stop competing anytime soon. In November she heads to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the 2009 World Championships. “I love the adrenaline rush of flipping through the air,” she says of her sport. “It feels like I’m flying.”

    By Phoebe Larson

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