Upside down, twisting, flipping or landing, Jordan Bowers has her bearings down pat.
"She's like a cat, knowing where she is in the air, both flipping and twisting," said Bowers' gymnastics coach Danelle Catlett Of Solid Rock Gymnastics. "I call it air sense or kinetic ability. She flips and twists forward and backward. Her air sense is amazing. She can do just about anything."
That Bowers, a 15-year-old who will be a sophomore at Lincoln Southwest, can keep track of her whereabouts is even more impressive, given her travel schedule. She was in Medellin, Colombia, in April, where she won the junior all-around title in the Pacific Rim Championships to help lead the USA to the team championship and also claim a gold medal in the floor exercise and a bronze in the uneven bars.
"I was not expecting to win all-around gold at all, especially with my fall on beam," Bowers said. "When my coach told me that I won, I could not believe her. I was so excited."
It wasn't all gymnastics.
"We went downtown in Medellin one night to go souvenir shopping. We all got matching shirts, the same design, each in a different color," Bowers said. "And there was a street artist who let us do little paintings and he painted with us, so we each got one of those.
"We didn't celebrate until after it was all over. Then we all had a banquet. We got a pretty good haul and traded stuff with each country. We like that."
Then, she was off to Crossville, Tennessee, for the national team camp in May. In early June, Bowers and the USA junior team competed in the Pan American Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Bowers again claimed the gold medal in the all-around, posting a 54.75 to lead the USA to the Pan Am team title. Bowers also won gold medals in the uneven bars and floor exercise, and took the bronze in the balance beam.
Bowers will next compete in the U.S. Classic in Columbus, Ohio, July 27-28, and then in the U.S. Gymnastics Championships Aug. 16-19 in Boston.
Winning the Pac Rim and Pan Am Titles puts Bowers on the path to her long-time dream, competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
"That gave her a lot of confidence, and it definitely puts her more on the radar of national team coaches as a 2020 Olympic hopeful," said Catlett. "It was her first-ever international assignment, the first time she'd gone overseas to compete for the United States."
Bowers finished the Pac Rim all-around with a 53.6 total, edging out teammate Kayla Dicello of Maryland with 53.1. In the all-around and team competition, Bowers posted a 14.1 in the vault, 13.85 on the bars, 12.3 on the balance beam and 13.35 in the floor exercise. In the individual event competition, she had a 13.725 to win the floor and a 12.9 for third in the bars.
"I was actually really calm. I just treated it like going to the gym every day, knowing you can do it," said Bowers. "My first event was the vault. I didn't stick it but I landed it. Then it was the bars. It helps when you're a little taller. I am about 5-foot-1 or 5-2, so I'm actually pretty tall for gymnastics.
"When I fell on the beam, I wasn't really that upset because I knew I still had another event. You have to put that out of your mind and not think about it. The last event was floor. I've had the same music for three years, so I really feel it, but I did get new choreography this year. My cousin, Payton Prall, is a dancer and she choreographed my routine."
Bowers started her gymnastics career in a mommy-and-me class at Solid Rock at age 2.
"I think what I liked best was just being in the gym environment," said Bowers. "Level 6 was my first full season with a team, and I really like that because we all work together. It's not as stressful."
The stress and workload increased as she advanced as a gymnast. This summer, she is at Solid Rock for about 32 hours every week.
"Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we get to the gym at 8 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday, get there at noon, so we get to sleep in a bit," Bowers said. The gymnasts work out from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday, noon to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday.
There's more to training than just the time in the gym, according to Catlett.
"Jordan is the first elite gymnast to both be from Nebraska and train in Nebraska in 23 or 24 years," she said. Heather Brink, who is now a University of Nebraska assistant coach, was from Lincoln, but she trained in Oklahoma.
"Jordan didn't have to leave home to reach this level of gymnastics. For Solid Rock to go from a Junior Olympic club to an elite club to being a U.S. national training center, we had to make changes," Catlett said. "We have a cold therapy tub and a hydrocollator (for heat therapy). Jordan gets massages, she has a chiropractor, a nutritionist and an athletic psychologist. We incorporated all those professions into Solid Rock.
"When you get in the elite world and get international assignments, that's the opportunity to travel and reap some benefits from all your hard work."
Bowers appreciates the fact she can train and go to school in Lincoln.
"Most of my friends at school don't do gymnastics. I'm a really social person. I love going to school and talking to my friends. A lot of my USA teammates are full-time home-schooled," she said. "I do miss a lot of school because of camps that we have to travel for, sometimes a week at a time. I study at the camps and get school work before."
Bowers said she takes most of her core classes, such as English, math and science, during a two-block schedule at Southwest (instead of a four-block schedule) and rounds out her class work with online school.
All that juggling is necessary for Bowers to keep alive her dream of competing in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
"I've been thinking about it for a long time. You keep it in the back of your mind," said Bowers. "Each competition is that much closer to that goal."
Her athleticism and strength are big reasons Bowers is on track for her dream, according to Catlett.
"From the very start, she was very strong and very fearless. Her ability as an all-arounder is one of the reasons the national team likes Jordan and she is considered a 2020 hopeful," she said. "With the new Olympic makeup, you need lots of all-arounders. It's going to be difficult to take specialists. The team is down to four all-arounders competing with two others on the team. If you take specialists and an all-arounder goes down, you have to have someone to fill the spot."
There's work ahead for Bowers.
"She needs to stay happy and healthy. We do need to upgrade in a few areas. She does a double twisting vault called a Yurchenko. We're working on an Amanar, which is a two-and-a-half twisting vault," Catlett said. "She needs to clean up some areas, and there are areas she needs to upgrade. She needs to be very consistent, able to hit a routine over and over again. Floor is a place where we want to get at least one stronger pass in and in the bars, there is one skill we're hoping to add. Her beam is currently fine with regards to difficulty and consistency."