Baldwin’s Abby Rexrode remains 2nd to none in WPIAL gymnastics

Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Baldwin’s Abby Rexrode has made an indelible imprint on WPIAL gymnastics.

Rexrode won her second consecutive all-around title in the advanced division at the WPIAL championships Feb. 11 at Moon.

By doing so, the 16-year-old sophomore held firm as the WPIAL’s top gymnast.

“Abby had a strong all-around performance. She hit all four events,” coach Jodi Cummings said. “Abby has sharpened up on her skills that she competed last year. She’s coming off of an ankle injury that happened in December. That had her out for several weeks, so she had to bounce back from that quickly to get qualified for the WPIAL and state meets.”

Rexrode racked up a 38.225 all-around score to defeat runner-up Daisy Lewis of Freedom, who finished with a 38.1-point total.

“I am excited and shocked,” Rexrode said. “It is really difficult to win because the competition is so good. The scores ended up being really close.

“It felt amazing, and relieved, that my scores were enough to win. I knew it would be really close for first and second. When they didn’t call my name for second place, I was amazed.”

Rexrode took first place on the beam and bars with scores of 9.65 and 9.525, and second on the floor (9.6) and vault (9.45).

“The beam is still my best and favorite event,” she said. “It feels like such an accomplishment when I make my routine.”

Last year, Rexrode attained a 37.775 all-around score, finishing first on beam and second on floor.

Cummings believes Rexrode dazzles the crowd with her energetic floor routine.

“Although she’s strong on all four events, I would say her strongest is floor,” Cummings said. “On floor, she’s powerful and fun to watch. Her tumbling is high and powerful.”

Rexrode fractured an ankle at a meet in mid-December and was out of commission for a month. That meant no practice time and no competition at meets until mid-January.

“I was really nervous when I came back as to how my season would go,” Rexrode said. “I worked hard, and my coaches and teammates got me back to where I needed to be.”

There have been 10 student-athletes who have won multiple WPIAL all-around gymnastics championships. Hopewell’s Kelly Burka (2010-12), North Allegheny’s Jamie Davic (1993-95) and North Allegheny’s Angie Evans (1986-88) are the only three-time champions.

Rexrode joined Quaker Valley’s Tabitha Bemis (2007-08), North Allegheny’s Katie Maranuk (2002-03) and Anne St. Clair (2000-01), Baldwin’s Mary DeFrancesco (1997-98) and Kim Calderone (1983-84), and Butler’s Bev Fry (1980, 1982) as two-time titlists.

Baldwin sophomore Annabelle Herrle also participated in the WPIAL advanced division and placed seventh all-around with a 35.75 score. Her top event was floor with a 9.25, good for seventh place.

“Annabelle had a great meet,” Cumming said. “It’s so hard to be pushed up into the advanced division. Annabelle’s scores just barely qualified her, but she should be proud of her performance and being in the highest division.”

Herrle, like her older sister Abbey was at Baldwin, is a five-sport athlete. She earned varsity letters in soccer, swimming, gymnastics, indoor track and outdoor track last year and plans to continue the hectic schedule throughout her scholastic career.

“Annabelle does many sports,” Cummings said. “She’s a busy girl. Somehow, she makes it all work.

“Annabelle is a strong competitor in all her sports. She comes from diving to gymnastics then to soccer sometimes. She’s on the go constantly.”

Two Baldwin juniors competed at WPIALs in the Intermediate I division.

Ashley Brown finished as the WPIAL runner-up with a 34.675 all-around score. Brown placed third on the vault with an 8.95 and sixth on the bars, beam and floor.

“She also had a great meet,” Cummings said. “Ashley’s performance was probably the best I’ve ever seen from her. She went 4 for 4 and hit all her routines.

“We have been working hard to accomplish our goals. These girls put a lot of time into the sport, and you can see it when they compete.”

The Highlanders also were represented by Katie O’Neill in the Intermediate I competition. O’Neill placed 20th with a 31.075-point total. She delivered a fifth-place performance on the vault with an 8.85.

A pair of Baldwin freshmen, Vivien Skalos and Aliya Blount, and senior Sophia Pittman participated in Intermediate II. Skalos placed 16th all-around with a 31.05 score.

A week later at the Pennsylvania Classic at Moon, Baldwin ended up third in the final team standings behind Altoona and the host team.

“We had a little bit of a tough meet. We had some errors,” Cummings said. “We had a great season and I’m proud of what all these girls have accomplished.”

The Highlanders repeated as section champions in 2022-23, taking first place in Section 1 ahead of Burrell, Fox Chapel, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine-Richland and Thomas Jefferson. The Baldwin girls were 4-0 in the section this year after posting a 5-0 mark last season.

“We won our section again,” Rexrode said. “We worked hard to add skills to increase our difficulty.”

The hard work will continue for the likes of advanced gymnasts like Rexrode, who practices her routines year-round.

“I am still in season for my (USAG) club team, practicing four days a week,” she said. “High school practices will eventually start up again and I’ll then practice for both teams in the offseason and summer.”

Rounding out the Baldwin squad in 2022-23 were sophomore Sophia Rossa and freshman prospects Carly Dowhy, Lilyanna Rock, Allyson Schwab, Ella Scurry and Jewell Stevens.

Thomas Jefferson corralled second place in the silver division at the PA Classic.

“TJ had a fantastic meet but Waynesboro beat them on bars,” said Cummings, who with assistants Rebecca Revo and Kristen Weber coaches both the Baldwin and TJ girls at Premier Gym and Cheer.

The Jaguars were led at the WPIAL meet by junior Addison Arndt and senior Ella Costa in the advanced division. Arndt earned 10th place all-around with a 35.4 score; Costa placed 14th with a 34.675.

TJ was represented by three gymnasts in the WPIAL Intermediate I division: freshman Riley Barna and seniors Mikayla Bilbie and Kayla Matey.

Barna placed fifth all-around with a 34.275, and her best individual finish was third on beam with an 8.55.

Karlie Enick, a sophomore, also competed in the Intermediate II division for the Jaguars.

Three seniors, Elisabeth Fry, Katelynn Inks and Jordan Sinclair, plus junior Madison McGuirk, rounded out the TJ squad.

Baldwin and TJ ended up third and fourth at the WPIAL team championships behind Moon and Pine-Richland.

“I’m proud of all the girls and the season we had,” Cummings said. “They gave it their all and should be proud of themselves.

“I think Baldwin will continue to be strong (in 2023-24). They are only losing one senior (Pittman). TJ may have a rebuilding year as they are losing six seniors (Bilbie, Costa, Fry, Inks, Matey and Sinclair).”

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