Valley seniors planning for careers in service of others
Tuesday, May 19, 2020 | 3:51 PM
Editor’s note: This is the 17th in an 18-part series profiling nominees for the Westmoreland County Scholar-Athlete Excellence Awards.
Madison Gatto’s goal of making a collegiate tennis roster is on hold.
The Valley senior and her sister Casey, two-thirds of the Gatto triplets, were accepted into a nursing program at Seton Hill. Madison and Casey, who joined forces this past fall to finish third at the Section 3-AA doubles tournament and reach the WPIAL quarterfinals, also want to continue their athletic pursuits at the next level.
But an in-person tryout on campus in late March was cancelled as everything was shutting down in the early stages of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Madison, who took up tennis as a sophomore and became a captain as a senior, said she hopes area tennis courts open soon so they can send Seton Hill coach Kim Kissell video of their playing talent, a virtual tryout of sorts.
Tryouts aside, she said she is excited for the next steps in her life.
“I can’t wait to start school,” said Madison, a member of both the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society at Valley. “Wanting to become a nurse gives me a sense of purpose and service.”
Rylee, the third member of the Gatto triplets, joined the tennis team in the fall. The trio also was set to form the backbone of the Valley softball team this spring, but the season was called off before any games were played.
“It really crushed me,” said Madison, the team’s starting catcher and a three-year captain. “I was excited to play with all of the younger players, including the incoming freshmen. We were really coming together as a team, and everyone was excited. But I am willing to sacrifice my senior season to make sure everyone is safe and healthy.”
Madison said she has searched for different ways to stay in shape in recent weeks with walks and a regular exercise routine.
“I really do miss the gym,” said Madison, who stays busy with work nearly every day at Rite Aid in Lower Burrell.
Tyler Walmsley, meanwhile, enlisted in the Army National Guard last June, and in a few weeks, he begins nine weeks of basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.
The Valley senior then will have an additional 23 weeks of military occupational specialty training in information technology at Fort Gordon in Georgia.
“Now, as it gets closer, I am like, ‘Wow, I’m going to be gone for a really long time,’ ” said Walmsley, a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society at Valley and a two-year captain of the Vikings boys soccer team.
“But it will allow me to not only serve my country but take in a lot more knowledge and develop valuable skills. It also helps with college with the tuition money you can get from it.”
The totality of the training will take him into 2021, and he then will have a civilian life and be able to go to college while fulfilling the Army National Guard requirements of one weekend a month and two weeks a year.
Walmsley, a STEM Award recipient from The Challenge Program, Inc., has received scholarship offers from Point Park, Robert Morris and Slippery Rock.
“That’s still a decision I have to make,” he said.
Walmsley said a series of training sessions one weekend a month in Greensburg has provided a valuable foundation for what is to come in basic training.
Memories of his years at Valley, including time spent with his soccer teammates, he said, will stay with him as he takes the next steps in his life.
“It was such a fun experience,” Walmsley said. “I played soccer since I was 3, so it’s always been a big part of my life.”
Walks and hikes in the woods and just getting outside have been prominent in Walmsley’s goal of staying in top shape.
“I feel the coronavirus opened a lot of eyes to not take the outdoors for granted, just being able to get outside and take a breath of fresh air knowing how we’ve all been trapped at home for the last two months,” he said. “It’s refreshing.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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