Four central Illinois gymnasts representing Team USA in Tokyo, Japan


PEKIN, Ill. — Four central Illinois athletes are taking their talents across the world.

Lizzie Roiger, Morgan Vermillion, Jill Papenhause, and Sophie Krueger impressed judges at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York in October.

This was during a World Age Group Championship camp.

The four athletes comprise 1/3 of the entire Female USA Gymnastics team selected through a series of three competitions.

After these competitions, judges take their two best scores.

On Sunday, Dec. 1, they’re flying to Tokyo, Japan in hopes of dazzling judges again at the World Age Group Championships.

The four girls, from Central Illinois Trampoline and Tumbling, tell WMBD they’re ready to prove hard work really does pay off.

Lizzie, Morgan, Jill and Sophie have been practicing nearly everyday, perfecting their passes.

Vermillion says she’s ready to represent the USA.

“What I’m most looking forward to is just being able to show all the hard work I’ve been able to put in this season. Get that payoff from just showing the world what I’ve got,” Vermillion said.

The girls practice all week long, preparing for competitions throughout the year.

“We train every day except for Monday, Fridays, except sometimes I know a few of us will come in for extra work on Mondays.  We train for 2 hours except for the weekends, we train for 2 1/2 hours,” Vermillion said.

This is Jill Papenhause’s second year qualifying to be on Team USA, she says none of this would be possible without support from her teammates.

“We get so close we work together so much that we are sisters. We do so much together, we can do anything together,” Papenhause said.

Papenhause says she has unfinished business from last year, when she represented team USA in Russia.

“I am hoping to land both passes this year, last year I over-rotated one of my passes.  So I’m just hoping to land both passes and make it into the finals this year,” Papenhause said.

Last year, not only did Sophie Krueger represent Team USA, she nailed both of her passes and made it to the finals.

“I was just ready for competition day and I was working really hard, then I did my passes.  I was just happy to make it into finals,” Krueger said.

While staying humble, she thanks God for her motivation.

“I keep going because it’s just something I enjoy doing. It’s a talent that God has given me, which makes me happy,” Krueger said.

Our four central Illinois gymnasts will meet their future Team USA teammates after a 13-hour flight to Japan.

Lizzie Roiger says she hopes by supporting one another, Team USA will set an example for other countries.

“Team USA helps each other, pushes each other, and really cheers for each other. So hopefully they take that to their country,” Roiger said.

Roiger said this a completely new experience for her.

“I’m pretty excited to just experience a new country. This is one of my first times on a plane actually, I’m a little bit nervous to go 13 hours on a plane, but I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Roiger said.

All the girls agree their sisterhood makes them better.

“I just like the bond we share with each other.  I just like how we push each other every single day.  We try our hardest and we help each other get somewhere,” Roiger said.

“We overcome bad meets.  We’ve come back, we’ve worked hard and that just helps you push farther and get new skills,” Krueger said.

“We’re really good at picking each other up.  Trying to get through, it’s a really good experience for all of us,” said Papenhause.

“Without all the support from this gym I definitely wouldn’t be where I am or going to Tokyo in the first place,” said Vermillion.

To learn more about USA gymnastics, visit the website here.

If you’re interested in joining a gym, or know someone who would be interested, visit Central Illinois Trampoline and Tumbling’s website.

The gym is located at 1109 Broadway St, Pekin, IL 61554.

“Building champions, with character.” The gym’s website reads.

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