Thomas Jefferson, Baldwin gymnastics teams gear up

Friday, December 22, 2017 | 6:12 PM

The Thomas Jefferson and Baldwin gymnastics teams own lofty expectations for 2017-18.

The teams, which are coached by Jodi Cummings and practice together at Premier Gym and Cheer, aim to make a splash at the Pennsylvania Classic again this season.

Baldwin finished first in the silver division team competition at last year's classic, representative of the state championships in gymnastics.

Thomas Jefferson placed second in the gold division.

Cummings, who is assisted by Becky Revo, Sam Duttine and volunteer coach Kristen Weber in 2017-18, was overjoyed by the impressive performances.

“This year has been one to remember,” said Cummings following the 2017 Pennsylvania Classic. “The unity between these two teams was something special to watch. It was a great season, and Becky, Sam and I are very proud coaches.”

Thomas Jefferson competed in the WPIAL as a full team for the first time in 2016-17. The Jaguars captured their section championship and finished second in the WPIAL.

All five gymnasts on last year's team are back this season, and the Jaguars added five girls.

“TJ is a strong team this year,” Cummings said. “Our main goal is to win WPIALs and states in the gold division.”

The Jaguars are led by sophomore Natalie Galioto, who took second place in the diamond division all-around scoring at last season's state meet. Galiato finished second on the bars, third on the beam and floor exercise and fourth on the vault.

“Natalie had a wonderful all-around performance in the all-around. She hit all four events,” Cummings said. “I can't wait to see what the rest of her high school career holds for her.”

Galiato is complemented by juniors Courtney Kelley and Angelina Gambino along with sophomores Natalie Moore and Demi Kondos.

Kelley, Gambino, Moore and Kondos placed at the 2017 state meet in their respective divisions.

Kelley secured sixth on bars, ninth on vault and ninth all-around. Moore earned sixth on vault, seventh on floor and 10th on bars. Gambino and Kondos ended up sixth on bars and beam, respectively.

“I am so excited for this season,” Galioto said. “Our team has already become very close, and we all work hard to push each other at practice and still have fun.

“Our coaches are our biggest supporters, and we would not be here without all of the time and effort that they put into helping us succeed in this sport.”

Galioto, Kelley, Kondos and Moore, who has been out of the lineup with an injury, compete year-round in a USAG Level 9 gymnastics program.

“We have already competed in three (USAG) meets this season,” Galioto said. “This really helps our team (at TJ) continue to increase our skill level. We started off strong this high school season with a 144 all-around score at our first meet. Our ultimate goal is to win our section again, then WPIALs and states.”

Galioto, who plays softball in the spring, owns a lofty GPA. She said it hovers above the 4.0 mark.

“School is my top priority, with gymnastics a close second,” Galioto said. “Grades are very important to me.”

Thomas Jefferson's first-year gymnasts consist of junior Adara Getsy and freshmen Anna Weber, Erin Gruber, Jackie Guenther and Kaylee Rowland.

Baldwin also has five new members with little or no gymnastics experience.

“They are working hard to get new skills and increase the difficulty in their routines,” Cummings said.

Hanna Kalwarski is the lone senior on the Baldwin's squad, and Haili Cordell and Erin Winkowski are the juniors. They are joined by sophomores Alaina Wodereck, Paige Young, Abby Zuder and Emma Zuder and freshman Julia Stipetic.

“We have had a few injuries to work through, but things are looking up,” Cummings said. “We are hoping to win states in the silver division again this year.”

Cordell ended up fourth all-around in the silver division at last year's state meet, thanks in part to a second-place finish on the bars and sixth-place showing on the beam.

Kalwarski, who placed seventh on the vault and ninth on the beam, recently signed a letter of intent to attend West Liberty. In college, she will compete in acrobatics, tumbling — one of the nation's fastest-growing intercollegiate sports — and track and field.

Kalwarski is a fourth-year gymnast at Baldwin whose strongest event is the floor exercise. She also is a pole vault specialist in track and field.

“Hanna is a tough competitor and wants to lead her team to another state championship,” Cummings said.

Kalwarski considered a dozen colleges before narrowing her final choices to West Liberty, Adrian, Alderson Broaddus, Converse and Davis Elkins. She will major in biology in college with plans of becoming a physician's assistant.

“It was a very hard decision,” Kalwarski said. “I had (considered) 12 colleges at the beginning from all around the United States before I got it down to five. After that, I had to think about acro and tumbling, but I also wanted to continue to pole vault.

“West Liberty is not only giving me an acrobatics and tumbling scholarship, but I'm also getting a track and field scholarship as well. I have been on the campus; it is very nice. It is a small college, but it feels very big. We are the Hilltoppers, and the campus represents it very well — it has big hills.”

A member of the National Art Honors Society and Special Olympics Club at Baldwin, Kalwarski had reconstructive knee surgery last spring. She has been rehabbing for eight months and is expected to return to gymnastics in January.

“She has been working on staying in shape while out with the injury,” Cummings said. “When she comes back after the holidays, I know she will be better than ever.”

There are 14 gymnastics teams in the WPIAL this season.

Thomas Jefferson and Baldwin are members of Section 1, along with Burrell, Fox Chapel, Hampton, North Allegheny and Pine-Richland.

Section 2 consists of Central Valley, Chartiers Valley, Hopewell, Moon, Montour, South Side Beaver and West Allegheny. Chartiers Valley is a new WPIAL team.

The WPIAL finals will be Feb. 16-17.

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.

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