Freshman phenom leads group of versatile athletes on Baldwin gymnastics team
Sunday, July 24, 2022 | 9:01 AM
She is beyond being a freshman prospect.
Baldwin’s Abby Rexrode was one of the top freshman athletes in the area in the 2021-22 school year. Rexrode flourishes in the gym, working out year-round and looking to perfect her techniques and routines.
The Baldwin underclassman won both WPIAL and state all-around championships in the diamond division — for advanced gymnasts — in 2021-22, two of the highest honors at the high school level.
“It did exceed my expectations,” Rexrode said. “I never thought I would place first in the diamond division for states or WPIALs as a freshman.”
Rexrode captured the all-around title at the Pennsylvania Classic at Moon, which serves as the high school state championships for gymnastics.
“Once again, Abby had an outstanding performance,” Baldwin coach Jodi Cummings said afterwards. “She’s an amazing athlete that continues to improve at every practice. I can’t wait to see what her future holds.”
Rexrode finished first on the beam, second on the floor exercise and fourth on vault and bars.
“My goal was to get first all-around because I knew I could do it,” Rexrode said. “I think it was an awesome season. I was surprised at how well I did individually and how well the team did. I can’t wait for my next three years.”
Next up is her sophomore season. Rexrode, who turned 15 in February, practices five days a week for close to 20 hours per week over the summer.
“My goals are to add bigger tricks to my routines and make my form better for the upcoming season,” she said. “I went to the Penn State gymnastics camp and have already gotten some new skills.”
Another top Baldwin athlete, 2022 graduate Abbey Herrle, secured first place on silver division beam event at the state meet. Herrle was the dictionary definition of athletic versatility in high school as she earned 15 varsity letters in her four years at Baldwin.
The 6-foot Herrle participated in gymnastics, tennis, swimming and diving, indoor track and outdoor track. She earned what is believed to be a school-record 15 varsity letters in her athletic career — four in gymnastics and indoor track, three in swimming/diving and outdoor track and one in tennis.
“I earned two MVP and two captain pins, as well,” Herrle said. “I got an MVP and a captain pin for swimming and diving and for gymnastics.”
Other noteworthy letter winners from the past at Baldwin include Ian Wild (14 varsity letter), Justin Schmotzer (13), Jenn Flynn (12), Karen Kovach (12) and Carole Zajac (12). Wild lettered in five sports (football, basketball, bowling, lacrosse, track and field) in his senior year.
Herrle, who graduated with a 3.5 GPA, plans to attend Robert Morris where she will major in sports management and minor in finance while competing in the women’s track and field program.
She competed in the high jump, pole vault, shot put and discus events at Baldwin but plans to specialize in the high jump and discus at RMU with the possibility of competing in the heptathlon.
“I started my senior track season with an ankle injury that took me out of four weeks of practicing,” Herrle said, “but I ended up rebounding and getting a personal record in every event that I competed in. It was a really great season and I’m so thankful for all my teammates and my throwing coaches, as well as my head coach, for making everything I’ve been able to do possible.
“I thought my athletic career (at Baldwin) was very successful. I had some lows but I had more highs. I’m so happy I was able to bond and be able to make so many great friendships that I will carry on after high school. Some of my favorite memories happened at track with my closest friends. Even my bad days weren’t that bad.”
Abbey’s younger sister Annabelle, a Baldwin freshman and gold division gymnast in 2021-22, finished first on the floor and fourth all-around at the WPIAL finals.
“Annabelle is a solid competitor,” said Cummings, who also coaches the Thomas Jefferson gymnasts. “She stays calm as she competes.”
Herrle, like her older sister, is a five-sport athlete. She earned varsity letters in soccer, swimming, gymnastics, indoor track and outdoor track and plans to continue the hectic schedule throughout her scholastic career. If she does, she will graduate from Baldwin with 20 varsity letters.
“Abbey and Annabelle are both outstanding athletes,” said Ed Helbig, Baldwin’s track and field coach. “The coaching staff always discussed what events they would compete in. With Abbey, we were sure to get points in the shot put, pole vault, high jump, javelin or discus. With Annabelle, we knew we would get points in the high jump, pole vault, long jump, triple jump, 100 meters and as a member of the 4-by-100 relay.
“When we went to an invitational, I always wanted the girls to select an event or two and focus on those events. But they wanted to do them all. Many times, they would be running all over a facility competing in four events. Add to that many times Annabelle would leave the meet to go and compete with the soccer team, only to return to continue competing in a track event or a field event. But that was their attitude. They wanted to do them all. The only bad thing about Abbey and Annabelle is that we won’t have one of them for the 2023 season.”
Along with ending up second at WPIALs and states, the Baldwin gymnasts rolled through the regular season undefeated and won a section title for the first time since 2016.
What can Rexrode, who practices and competes at Premier Gym for both her high school and the USA Gymnastics programs, do for an encore in 2022-23?
“I am going to increase my difficulty level and make everything cleaner to hopefully score higher,” she said. “With this, I would like to do even better and try win WPIALs and states again.
“It would benefit my team, as well.”
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