Hard work pays off for Baldwin freshman at WPIAL gymnastics championships

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Sunday, February 20, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Baldwin’s coaching staff was confident in freshman Abby Rexrode’s chances going into the WPIAL gymnastics individual championship meet.

“Abby had a great performance at the WPIAL finals,” coach Jodi Cummings said. “She’s strong on all four events. We knew if she would hit her routines, she would be at the top. Her difficulty level and start value of each routine is maxed out.

“Abby is an outstanding gymnast and teammate. She’s always positive and willing to try new skills.”

Rexrode captured first place all-around in the diamond division — for advanced gymnasts — with a winning score of 37.775. She won what she considers her best and favorite event, the balance beam, with a 9.5 score, and placed second on floor with a 9.575.

“I feel super accomplished winning the WPIAL title,” Rexrode said. “I knew it would be difficult but that I could do it because I’ve spent so much time practicing and just had to perform well.

“Once I heard the all-around score for second place, I knew mine was a little higher and that I had won first. I was super shocked, and it felt unreal.”

Rexrode, 14, has been participating in gymnastics for 11 years. She is the first WPIAL all-around champion from Baldwin since 1997-98 when Mary DeFrancesco won the title in back-to-back years.

“It has been a great season,” Rexrode said. “I have gotten a lot better and have had amazing coaches and teammates who have been supportive through it all.”

Rexrode’s senior teammate, Mia Dougherty, placed third all-around in the diamond division with an overall score of 36.9. She finished second on the beam with a 9.325, although her best score (9.4) came on the vault.

“Mia had an outstanding performance also,” Cummings said. “She has been working on adding a little more difficulty to her bar routine and sticking her flight series on beam. We also knew if she hit her routines, she would be at the top.”

Dougherty, 17, has been participating in gymnastics since she was 10. She turned in a solid effort on all four events at the WPIAL finals.

“I could not have asked for a better meet and am very proud of how I did,” she said. “I stuck every routine. I knew I was capable of doing as well as I did, so I was hoping for a solid meet. I did not expect third all-around and second on beam, though.

“It has been a great season. I have gotten a lot better and have had amazing coaches and teammates who have been supportive through it all.”

Similar to Rexrode, Dougherty’s best and favorite event is the beam.

“I love the feeling of completing a solid routine (on the beam),” Dougherty said.

Annabelle Herrle, a gold division gymnast and another top Baldwin freshman, took first place on the floor exercise with a 9.35 and placed fourth all-around with a 35.675-point total.

“Annabelle is a solid competitor,” Cummings said. “Her gymnastics is difficult, and she stays calm as she competes. She had a great meet and did what she always does: solid, clean gymnastics.”

Cummings and her two assistants, Becky Revo and Kristen Weber, coach the Baldwin and Thomas Jefferson gymnasts, who practice and compete at Premier Gym.

“TJ and Baldwin have had a great year competing,” Cummings said. “The scores at each meet have been very close between our teams. TJ is led by a strong group of seniors and had a great performance at the WPIAL meet. We have a few mistakes to fix before the state meet.

“Baldwin has had a great season and WPIAL meet. This is our best season in years.”

The Highlanders, led by Rexrode, Dougherty and freshman Sophia Rossa, another advanced gymnast, won the section title this season for the first time since 2016. Baldwin racked up a 5-0 record in Section 1, defeating TJ, Burrell, Fox Chapel, North Allegheny and Pine-Richland.

Other gymnasts at Baldwin this year are seniors Emily Schwab and Haley Staab, junior Sophia Pittman, sophomores Ashley Brown, Katie O’Neill and Grace Iaquinta.

Abbey Herrle, a multi-sport athlete, ended up fourth all-around in the silver division after securing fifth place on bars and eighth on floor.

“I put out all of my effort in all of my events,” she said. “I’m a little upset with myself for falling on beam, but there isn’t really anything I can do about it now.

“I honestly thought we all did really well. You can always see the effort put out on meet days, and it’s so satisfying to see everyone’s success when they work so hard at practice. We did really well as a team. We did have minor mistakes, but I still think we should have won (the WPIAL team title).”

The elder Herrle sibling competes in gymnastics, tennis, swimming and diving, indoor track and outdoor track. By the time she graduates, she will have earned 14 varsity letters.

Also for Baldwin, O’Neill placed seventh on vault in the silver division.

Thomas Jefferson finished second in Section 1 with a 4-1 record. There were 12 girls on TJ’s team, led all season by seniors Kamryn Kameg, Kaylee Rehak and Sophia Stoicovy.

Rounding out the squad were juniors Ella Costa, Jordan Sinclair, Katelynn Inks, Kayla Matey, Elisabeth Fry and Mikayla Bilbie, sophomores Addie Arndt and Maddie McGuirk and freshman Karlie Enick.

Kameg, Rehak, Costa and Arndt compete at the advanced level.

“I’m so proud of all our girls,” Cummings said. “The team support between Baldwin and TJ is amazing. You would never know these kids were competing against each other, and I think that’s what makes our program special.

“It’s a group of girls wearing different leotards but with one goal to do their best no matter what leotard they have on. They support each other through thick and thin and that’s what makes them successful. This makes my coaching heart so happy, the love they have for each other.”

Rehak snagged fourth place in the diamond division all-around scoring with 36.8 points, placing fifth on beam and seventh on vault.

Arndt ended up eighth all-around after securing fourth- and eighth-place finishes on the beam and floor. Costa placed seventh on beam.

Sinclair also corralled eighth place on the gold division bars, and Stoicovy took sixth on the silver division beam.

Independent gymnasts at Premier include Ashlyn Cummings from Elizabeth Forward, Scarlett Valley from Peters Township and Cassidy Rega from Seton La Salle.

Rega placed third (9.075) in the silver division vault at the WPIAL finals.

Moon, Baldwin and Thomas Jefferson ended up 1-2-3 in the final team standings.

TJ won WPIAL titles in 2019 and 2020. Central Valley was crowned champion last season.

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