Baldwin gymnastics ready for another championship run
By: Ray Fisher
Friday, December 21, 2018 | 9:48 PM
The Baldwin gymnastics team is inundated with talented freshmen athletes this season.
Coach Jodi Cummings is hoping for a big splash from Mia Dougherty, Kaylee Garofalo, Abbey Herrle, Hanna Kuchniky, Emily Schwab and Haley Staab.
“We have a young team at Baldwin, but we have some really strong freshmen,” said Cummings, who is assisted by Sam Duttine, Becky Revo and volunteer coach Kristen Weber. “I know they will do well. We are working on consistency right now. With this being such a young team, there will be a lot of (jittery) nerves while competing.”
Baldwin placed second in the bronze division at last year’s Pennsylvania Classic. The Highlanders finished first in the silver division in 2017.
Haili Cordell and Erin Winkowski are the only seniors this season. Bailey Harding and Julia Stipetic are sophomores.
Alaina Wodarek, the team’s lone junior, made a big impact for the Highlanders last winter in her first year of gymnastics competition.
The diminutive Wodarek took first place on the gold division floor exercise at the WPIAL championships. Wodarek, also a Baldwin cheerleader, was awarded a season-high 9.3 score.
“Our team will look a bit different this year,” Wodarek said. “We lost a few (team members) but gained six freshmen and a sophomore. We are getting along very well, and our friendship will continue to grow. I want to establish a close relationship between my teammates where we can stay focused while also having fun. There will be doubts and tough times, but I hope to encourage my friends and give them strength.
“We are working hard as a team to perform our skills better than the day before. We have a strong lineup, perhaps the strongest in awhile for Baldwin. Our goals are to qualify for the WPIAL team championship and maintain a top three (ranking) at states. I believe our team can go a long way, individually and together.”
Wodarek packs a ton of athleticism on her 5-foot-1 frame. She also is a member of Baldwin’s competitive cheer squad that qualified for the National High School Cheerleading Championship at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
“I strive to be a leader and role model to the younger girls and future gymnasts,” Wodarek said. “I will continue to work on consistency and doing my routines to the best of my ability.
“Gymnastics can be very frustrating and difficult, but it is important to remember that it’s all for fun. Once you focus on enjoying what you’re doing, you love every minute and routines come easier. I love my team, and we hope to make our coaches and school proud this year.”
The Baldwin and Thomas Jefferson gymnastics squads share coaches and a gym. They also have similar goals.
“We have a large program for both schools this year,” Cummings said. “We have been working on consistency with both teams, adding new and exciting skills to impress the judges and the crowd.
“We have high hopes for both teams. Our goal is to get both teams qualified into the WPIAL team championship meet in February.”
Carrick junior Ashtyn Grill also practices and travels with the Baldwin and TJ gymnasts.
Baldwin and Thomas Jefferson opened the season Dec. 14 at home with rousing victories against Hopewell and South Side Beaver.
“It was a great way to start the season,” Cummings said. “We had some great performances from both teams.
“Both teams posted high scores, and we have room for improvement. We know what we need to work on and look forward to improving our team scores.”
Dougherty and Garofalo, enjoyed outstanding debuts for the Highlanders.
Dougherty posted a 9.4 on vault and 9.15 on floor. Garofalo registered a 9.3 on vault and 9.25 on floor.
Other leading performances were attained by Wodarek (9.35 on floor), Kuchniky, Herrle, Stipetic and Cordell.
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.