Tumbling toward the top: Sterling boy competing at national tournament

June 11, 2018 GMT

STERLING – Like most kids, Luis Delacruz has heard it before: “No jumping on the bed!”

But unlike most kids, the 9-year-old Sterling boy’s youthful hi-jinks helped jump start an interest in tumbling that paved the way for him to compete at the national level.

Luis has qualified to compete Tuesday for Gymnastics Devine at the United States Tumbling and Trampoline Association National Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The competition runs through Saturday.

The son of Peter and Maria Talley, Luis is one of 27 members of the Dixon-based power tumbling club to perform on the national stage; he and his fellow tumblers advanced from state competition in April at Rock Island, where Luis placed second in the sub-novice level.

“I like tumbling,” Luis said. “I just started it, and I asked my mom and dad top put me in it, and they saved up for it, so now I’m in it.”

The Talleys approached Gymnastics Devine in August. Gym owner Deb Devine DeLancey told Luis that he was a “talented little boy,” and would like to see him perform in competitions.

“Luis is what I would consider a natural,” DeLancey said. “He has a lot of talent, and the majority of the time he has a coachable attitude.”

When Luis isn’t flipping or tumbling, he watches YouTube videos of gymnasts – and while that helps give him ideas on different types of moves to do, it doesn’t necessarily teach a whole lot.

That’s where DeLancey comes in.

She gives Luis step-by-step instructions on how to perfect the moves he learns from the internet. On his first day of training, he simply ran around and displayed what he had been doing at home; however, the atmosphere felt different than being at home with his six siblings.

“I thought it was scary on my first day, because there were a whole bunch of people watching me.”

First, DeLancey focused on easing his nerves, teaching him about stopping and thinking, breathing, relaxing and focusing on fixes to his routines. Luis’ first meet was in January in Belvidere.

When it came time for him to compete, those nerves crept back into the fold – but then he remembered his training.

“I was nervous,” Luis said. “I breathed, I focused on the fix, I thought about what I was going to do, and then I didn’t feel scared without the distractions.”

He performed well enough to win his first trophy. The months came and went, and the trophy count racked up to five, with four runner-up finishes and a third-place finish. By the time Luis was competing at the Rock Island High School Fieldhouse for the April 29 state meet, the nervousness was going, replaced by confidence and experience.

“I wasn’t worried or anything, because then I did meets a lot,” Luis said. “I practiced and tried my best to do my passes, and keep my legs together.”

DeLancey is impressed with how quickly Luis is getting a grasp of the mental aspect of the training. She said Luis has the ability to one day be at the advanced or elite levels of power tumbling.

“To have a 9-year-old athlete [explain] that he did his breathing and relaxing, cool, calm and in control, and focus on the fix – you don’t find that in the vocabulary of most 9-year-old children,” DeLancey said. “It takes a lot of internal fortitude to teach that, but for him to grasp that and turn around and use that, he’s done extremely well.

“I look for him to do amazing things. We’re excited to provide him with the opportunity to compete.”

Luis and his family left for Florida over the weekend, and it will be the first time he’s been to the Sunshine State.

The first thing he’ll do?

“Go to the beach, and go snorkeling.”