New Kensington gymnast Pierson to compete with all-stars in Hungary

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018 | 9:33 PM


Abbie Pierson finalized obtaining a passport Tuesday that will allow her travel internationally this fall.

The New Kensington resident and rising senior at St. Joseph High School recently was selected to represent USA Gymnastics on a Region 7 all-star team that will compete in Budapest, Hungary, in November.

“I really never expected myself to be in the situation, so to see all the hard work pay off for something like this, it's just a great feeling,” said Pierson, who has verbally committed to Division I West Virginia.

Pierson's performances and results from Level 10 regionals and nationals this spring fueled her qualifications for selection.

“It is an honor to be on this team which has some of the top gymnasts in Region 7,” Pierson said. “I've also wanted to be able to travel, and this allows me to do that. It makes it even more exciting.”

The team will land in Vienna, Austria, and tour the city before doing the same at several locations in Hungary, including the nation's capital.

The American squad will have several days of training and compete head-to-head with a Hungarian select team of similar-aged gymnasts.

Pierson is the only Pittsburgh-area gymnast on the all-star team in Region 7, which includes competitors from Pennsylvania, as well as Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia.

A couple of gymnasts from the Pittsburgh region had qualifications good enough for inclusion on the all-star team, but their status as recent high school graduates who will be in college starting this fall prevented their selection.

“I am really excited for her. She deserves it,” said Ryan Schulz, Pierson's coach at her home facility of Gymkhana in Plum.

“She's an extremely hard worker and has an amazing attitude. She's very focused and driven. It's extremely difficult to qualify for this team, and it's a big honor. Things haven't always gone her way in gymnastics as far as the outcomes she's deserved for the work she's put in. It validates a lot of her efforts.”

Between now and November, Pierson will train several days a week at Gymkhana to prepare for the competition season, which begins around the same time she makes the trip to Hungary.

“There's not many upgrades I have to make for my routines,” Pierson said. “This past competition season, I added more twists to my vault and added a higher value tumbling pass for my first pass to my floor routine. This season coming up, it's really working on perfecting my different routines and getting really consistent so I can maximize my scores and have a really successful year.”

Pierson trains several hours a day Monday through Friday during the summer, and when school begins, weekday training sessions are after school following a full day of classes. Then it's time for homework.

She also will have several hours of practice on Saturday.

“Gymnastics has definitely taught me about dedication, time management, hard work and being able to properly maintain my body strength and health by drinking enough water and eating the right foods,” Pierson said. “Getting enough sleep is very important, too.”

She finished her junior year at St. Joseph with a 4.5 grade-point average.

Pierson parlayed good day-to-day habits this spring into strong outcomes at the USA Gymnastics state, regional and national levels.

She placed first in the vault, third on the uneven bars, third on beam, tied for first on the floor exercise and was first in the all-round at the Level 10 state championships at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

She moved on to the Region 7 meet in Landover, Md., and took first on vault, tied for 17th on bars and finished eighth on beam, second on floor and second in the all-around.

Pierson was among the top seven in the region to advance to nationals last month in Cincinnati. It was her third nationals appearance.

Her best finish at nationals was a third on vault. She added a tie for 17th on bars, a tie for 23rd on beam, a tie for 19th on floor and an eighth in the all-around in the Senior C division.

“She was able to finish her season strong,” Schulz said. “She had a few more difficult skills in her routine, and she was really able to build on those. She really picked up confidence after winning at states and gained momentum for regionals and to move on to nationals. The last three meets of the year were probably her best which is exactly what we were going for.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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