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Clayton captures 3 golds at regionals; off to nationals
Justin Clayton practices on the trampoline at Funtastic Gymnastics in Manteca. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

It’s better late than never for 16-year-old Justin Clayton.

The East Union junior is leaving for Spokane, Wash. Tuesday to compete in the the USA Gymnastics Trampoline & Tumbling Levels 5-7 National Championships later this week.

It’s a trip that’s been a decade in the making. Clayton has been involved with gymnastics off and on since age 6 but had never competed in any major events. That changed when he entered the California Trampoline & Tumbling State Championships May 3-4 in Bakersfield.

“I’m not much of a nervous guy,” Clayton said. “I was pretty laid back about it.”

He came away with first-place finishes in the trampoline, double-mini and tumbling events and improved each of his scores by at least a point in winning all three again in the Region 1 and 2 Championships held May 23-25 at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

“It’s a huge jump in score range,” said Jessalynn Dorland, an instructor at Funtastic Gymnastics and Clayton’s coach. “We’re hoping for the same thing at nationals.

“He’s come very far since I’ve been coaching him about three months ago,” Dorland added. “When we first started there were a few flaws here and there but we’ve been able to cut straight to the problems and fix those.”

At this rate Clayton could be competing in more competitive divisions in the future. He is currently level 5 in the trampoline and tumbling and level 6 in the double-mini.

“Level 5 is basically for beginners, and most kids my age are level 8, 9, 10 because they’ve been competing for a long time,” Clayton said. “Just going to nationals is pretty cool. I’m hoping for the best.”