By Don Lowe 

Although Carl Junction junior-to-be star athlete Ryan Sprague previously had a passion for baseball, he gave up the diamond sport to focus on trampoline and tumbling (T&T), which has become a discipline within USA Gymnastics (USAG) that is gaining momentum. 

Sprague’s decision has paid off and he has sparkled brightly the past couple of months while capturing both the Region 4 in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Missouri State Championships in Level 10 Double Mini Trampoline (DMT) competition. Spague’s performance qualified him for USAG Nationals, which takes place in Minneapolis June 21-26. 

“To get the scores necessary to go to Nationals you have to compete at both state and regionals and get a high enough score in at least one of those competitions,” Sprague explains. “Nationals is the biggest meet of the year and I’m excited to be able to go for my third consecutive year.” 

While making it to Nationals is impressive, Sprague was also recently named Missouri’s USAG Athlete of the Year. “This was one of my biggest achievements in this sport. It was a huge surprise when I heard my name at the state competition. It was a feeling of accomplishment unlike anything I’ve experienced before.” 

Sprague competes out of Helix Athletics in Joplin under the tutelage of Head Coach Angela Hand. When recollecting how his interest in this sport came about, he shares, “My sister (Raelyn) was in a beginner gymnastics class, and I would go watch her. 

“I was fascinated by the competitive trampoline athletes who were also practicing at the same time. My biggest inspiration when I first started was getting to watch (former USAG star) CJ Rhoades train.” 

Sprague’s initial intrigue led him to competing and he describes some of his specific specialties: “T&T is composed of four main events: trampoline, tumbling, double mini (trampoline) and synchronized trampoline. 

“I compete in all but synchronized trampoline because, prior to this year, it was not something we could practice at the facilities we have at Helix. T&T is divided into levels and age groups. I’m Level 10 in 15-16 year olds on trampoline and double mini trampoline, and Level 9 in 15-16 year olds for tumbling. 

“Trampoline, tumbling and double mini trampoline are separate events in T&T. Trampoline consists of 10 consecutive elements. Tumbling is eight skills, while traveling down what is called a rod floor. Double mini trampoline consists of two elements on a uniquely shaped trampoline.” 

Coach Hand says, “Ryan’s key to success has always been his dedication and determination. He never lets anything hold him back from reaching his full potential. Ryan is 100% a goal setter. He sets goals and tracks his progress through video.” 

In developing as an athlete, Sprague says, “One of the most important skills that comes with this sport is what is known as air awareness, and basically it’s how you know where you’re at in the air, while doing flips and twists.” 

Having the right mindset is important and Sprague says, “The biggest challenge that comes with this sport is being able to get over mental blocks. 

“The key to becoming successful in T&T, and any other sport, is to stay consistent in training and constantly strive to become a better athlete, as well as a better person. If you stay consistent and take training seriously, anyone can reach the goals they set for themselves.” 

As he remains driven to succeed, Sprague says, “My goal for next season is to become an intermediate elite on both double mini and trampoline, and in the years following to eventually compete in international competition.” 

Coach Hand raves, “What has impressed me most about Ryan is his positive attitude. Even when training might not be going the way he intended, he remains upbeat and positive. 

“I’m proud of Ryan’s work ethic. He is constantly exceeding my expectations. Ryan has the talent, strength and fortitude to become a world-class athlete in trampoline and tumbling.” 

Carl Junction High School Sports Standout Ryan Sprague Fast Facts

Age: 16 

Grade in School: Junior this fall

Height/Weight: 5’8”, 125 lbs. 

Parents: Robert and Meghan Sprague 

Siblings: Sisters Rylee and Raelyn Sprague 

Hometown: Carl Junction, Missouri 

High School: Carl Junction High School 

Favorite Subject in School: Math 

Favorite Food: Barbecue Chicken Pizza 

Favorite Professional or College Gymnast: Ruben Padilla, American Trampoline Gymnast 

Favorite Sports Movie: “Gran Turismo”