Thomas Jefferson gymnasts happy to compete, aim to defend WPIAL title

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Sunday, January 17, 2021 | 9:01 AM


The Thomas Jefferson gymnastics program has climbed quickly to elite status.

Last year, TJ won its fourth section title in a row, second consecutive WPIAL championship and finished as the state runner-up in the gold division.

“We hope to defend the WPIAL title,” coach Jodi Cummings said, “and we hope to be successful at the state meet. We have a strong team this year. Some of our underclassmen have big shoes to fill because our graduating seniors’ scores last year were high on all events. I feel our seniors this year will lead the team to another successful season.”

Four catalysts in 2019-20 were then-seniors Natalie Galioto, Natalie Moore, Demi Kondos and Maria Costa. Galioto, Moore and Kondos competed for four years and helped in establishing a successful TJ program. Costa was a two-year participant.

Galioto now is a freshman gymnast at Brockport. Moore signed with Fairmont State, where she competes in acrobatics and tumbling as a freshman exercise science major.

This season, senior leadership is provided by Anna Weber, Erin Gruber and Jackie Guenther.

Weber is a fourth-year member of the program and three-year letter winner. Competing in the gold division, Weber took first place on beam at last year’s Pennsylvania Classic and was a medalist on beam at the WPIAL finals.

As a sophomore, Weber secured second on vault at the state meet and third on vault and beam at the WPIAL finals. She also took eighth place on floor during her freshman season.

“As a team, our goals are be to section champs, make the WPIAL meet and be three-time WPIAL champs,” Weber said. “My goals for this season are to begin every meet with confidence and grace. There is nothing better than competing with a positive attitude and a supportive team backing you.

“I am beyond excited to begin my senior season with all my supportive teammates. This season will certainly be one we will never forget. I am extremely blessed we have the opportunity to compete.”

Gruber was a WPIAL runner-up on the vault in the silver division in 2019-20.

Despite having to deal with the coronavirus pandemic — TJ was not able to have any meets in December — the Jaguars are thrilled to be back practicing in the gym.

“The pandemic has disrupted the gymnastics team by not allowing us to practice consistently,” Weber said. “With that being said, I believe our team is very determined and motivated not to let these setbacks affect us. We plan to continue to practice vigorously and strive to reach our goals.

“We are extremely excited for the season ahead of us and hope that everyone stays happy and healthy throughout the season.”

Along with the trio of seniors, there are three juniors — Kamryn Kameg, Kaylee Rehak and Sophia Stoicovy — competing for TJ this season.

Kameg finished first in last year’s WPIAL gold division all-around category with a 35.9 mark, placing fourth on vault, sixth on bars, third on beam and fifth on floor.

The sophomore class is represented by Makayla Bilbie, Ella Costa, Elisabeth Fry, Jordan Sinclair, Kayla Matey and Katelynn Inks. Bilbie (bars, all-around) and Costa (floor) were WPIAL medalists a year ago.

Freshman prospects include Addison Arndt, Madison McGuirk and Maya Milani.

The TJ gymnasts practice and compete alongside Baldwin at Premier Gym. They are trained by Cummings, assistant Becky Revo and volunteer Kristen Weber.

“The pandemic has had a huge effect on our teams,” Cummings said. “We have had some gymnasts that decided to take a break, we haven’t been in the gym nearly as much as we usually are, we have had meets canceled, and we have to wear masks at all times, even during routines. But the only thing that matters is the safety of our gymnasts and the fact we are still able to be in the gym doing what we love.

“It’s not the easiest to watch them struggle with endurance because they haven’t been in the gym a lot or lose a trick they’ve done for years because of a lack of practice. But in the end they are still doing what they love. My girls have very little complaints about all the rules and just go with the flow. I always remind them that at least we are together doing gymnastics. We will get through this together, and it will make us all stronger in the end.”

The WPIAL finals are scheduled Feb. 14-15 at Moon. The Pennsylvania Classic will take place one week later in Bellefonte.

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