Thomas Jefferson senior makes impact in diving, gymnastics

Sunday, May 19, 2024 | 11:01 AM

Addison Arndt, a two-sport standout at Thomas Jefferson, is attending Penn State in the fall.

She will take a 3.9 GPA with her to the University Park campus.

“I am committed to Penn State,” Arndt said. “I am going in as an undecided major, but I am very interested in kinesiology and psychology. I am planning on doing something along those lines, but I have an open mind about a lot of different professions, so I think the best option for me as of right now is going in undecided.”

A member of the National Honor Society, Arndt literally plunged headfirst into her winter athletic schedule at TJ.

She competed in both of her sports — gymnastics and diving — during the same season. She had gymnastics practice at Premier Gym and Cheer and worked on her diving techniques at South Park High School.

Arndt maintained that dual-sport schedule throughout high school.

This year, the talented senior athlete was a WPIAL finalist in both gymnastics and as a diving specialist in the TJ swim program.

“Gymnastics is in the same season as diving, so it was a little difficult to balance (both sports),” Arndt said, “but it kept my schedule nice and busy.

“Managing the time between both sports (was) definitely challenging, especially since they are in the same season. But I did my best to stay organized and get things done ahead of time rather than procrastinate.”

In season, Arndt’s practice time ran after school usually from 3 to 5:30 for gymnastics and 8 to 9:30 for diving. She practiced her dives Monday to Thursday, 7 to 8:30, at South Park.

“I have done gymnastics pretty much since I could walk but never competed until I was 6 years old on the USAG team,” Arndt said. “As for diving, I was first introduced to the sport when I was around 8 but never competed until my freshman season.”

Arntt placed eighth in Class 2A at the WPIAL diving finals in late February at North Allegheny.

“My performance at the WPIAL diving was a little disappointing, to be honest,” she said. “I messed up on a dive during the first round that set me back pretty far. Thankfully, my other dives went well, so I was able to keep my spot on the podium and finish with an acceptable all-around score.

“It was a little frustrating knowing that if I hadn’t messed up that one dive, I would have qualified for PIAA, but I know I tried my best and some things happen for reasons that we don’t always need to know the answer to.”

Arndt said being able to participate in the WPIAL diving finals was a valuable learning experience.

“The WPIAL diving was definitely not my best meet physically, but mentally it taught me a lot about the comeback and my reaction to a failure,” Arndt said. “It was extremely difficult to get back into the mental headspace that I needed to be in to get through the meet, especially being that the bad dive was during the first round.

“But after some encouragement from my coaches and family, I was able to focus and get the job done.”

Arndt’s diving coach for the past three years has been Tiffany Melanie who, with assistance from her sister Noelle, coaches the South Park divers. She instructed Arndt through the Bethel Park Aquatic Club.

“Addie is a very talented diver. She has very pretty dives and makes it look effortless,” Melanie said. “Addie has a bubbly personality. She also has such a drive to improve. She constantly (wanted) feedback to learn how to make her dives better.

“Addie continued to improve and learn new dives every season.”

Thomas Jefferson’s girls and boys swim teams both won section championships this winter.

TJ’s top competitors were juniors Genevieve Cody, Nadia Casamassa and Brooke McGrew along with sophomore Shannon Chalfant for the girls and senior Gage Derrick and sophomore Chris Geitner for the boys. All were WPIAL qualifiers; Cody was a three-time medalist.

“It was an absolute historic year being that both the girls and boys teams won section titles,” Arndt said. “I feel like the swimmers truly went all out this season. I didn’t practice with them, but my younger sister, Delaney, is a freshman on the swim team. From her point of view, I got to see a little behind the scenes.

“There was so much discipline, dedication and perseverance shown throughout the season. I’m so happy their hard work paid off because they truly deserve the respect.”

Other leading contributors for the girls team included junior Natalie Rowland and seniors Grace Fluhme and Lillyan Safron. For the boys team, it was sophomores Gavin Mahan, Julian Rambharose and Danny Matusz, as well as senior Anthony Lauso.

In gymnastics, despite having only five girls on the team, TJ won a state title in the silver division at the Pennsylvania Classic at Moon.

Individually, Arndt finished fourth on the beam and sixth all-around in the diamond division.

Sophomore Riley Barna earned fourth place on bars and sixth all-around as a gold division competitor. And sophomore Nicole Parsons placed ninth on beam.

Karlie Enick and Kelsey Kontz, both juniors, rounded out the 2023-24 squad.

Arndt also placed ninth all-around in the advanced division of the WPIAL championships, finishing fourth on beam and 10th on floor.

“Addie’s gymnastics is powerful and fun to watch,” said Jodi Cummings, who coaches both the TJ and Baldwin teams. “It has been a great experience coaching her all these years. She started with us at Premier when she was just a little girl and we have watched her grow into an outstanding athlete and person.

“Addie is a dedicated athlete and was in the diamond division. That is the highest and most competitive division in high school. That’s a huge honor and accomplishment to be in the highest level of high school gymnastics.”

As a junior, Arndt qualified for the PIAA finals in both sports, placing fourth in the WPIAL Class 2A girls diving championships and 10th all-around in the advanced division at the WPIAL gymnastics finals.

Arndt took fourth place on the beam and ended up 10th all-around at WPIALs in her sophomore season.

“Addie’s very easy going but always working hard and trying to improve her skills,” Cummings said. “Addie (was) always on the go with gymnastics and diving. Her best event is the floor exercise; she’s so powerful and fun to watch. I am proud of all of her accomplishments in both sports.”

Arndt said she enjoyed participating in both sports equally well.

“I honestly do not have a favorite sport,” she said, “because both are so similar and different in many ways.”

She does, however, have a favorite event — floor exercise — in gymnastics, and she said her best event is the balance beam.

“Floor is my favorite because it really shows your personality,” Arndt said, “and you get to choose your own music, which says a lot about someone and it’s a fun time to just perform.”

Arndt, who is 17, said the biggest influence in her athletic career has been her mother, Melissa.

“It would absolutely be my mom,” she said. “She always gives me the right advice at the right time.”

Arndt’s mother, whose maiden name is Ziegler, competed in volleyball at Baldwin and on scholarship at Carlow. She graduated from Baldwin in 1996.

Arndt’s father, Ted, participated in track and field and cross country at Baldwin, and for one year at Cal (Pa.).

Arndt also was a track athlete as a TJ freshman.

“I had to stop competing in track due to the prolonged diving season since states is not held until the end of March,” she said. “With all of the practices, I don’t think I would’ve been able to manage both to my best ability.”

Even though Arndt’s high school career has ended, there appears to be another talented athlete from the Arndt family on the horizon at TJ.

Younger sister Delaney is in ninth grade and also is a three-sport competitor. She participates in cross country, swimming and track.


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