Burrell’s young gymnasts ready for WPIAL championships
Rene Ruggeri took over the Burrell gymnastics team in October and posted a tryout to see who would come out for the team shortly after opening a new gym in Lower Burrell.
The Bucs had only three gymnasts last year, and one of them, Taylor Johnson, a 2018 WPIAL champion, graduated — so Ruggeri wasn’t sure how many competitors she would have on her team.
When tryouts opened, though, nine girls signed up. They’ve come a long way together in a short period.
Seven of the nine Burrell gymnasts qualified to compete in Saturday’s WPIAL individual gymnastics championships at Moon.
“I’m really proud of what this team has accomplished in such a short amount of time,” Ruggeri said. “I really put this team together in mid-October, and by the beginning of December they were ready to compete. They did well and they won a few meets. I didn’t expect us to have that many qualifiers, and all the girls are excited about gymnastics again.”
Ruggeri, who owns Ultimate Gymanstics in Delmont along with her Lower Burrell location, took over for Jennifer Johnson, who left after her daughter, Taylor, graduated last season.
Four of the Bucs will compete in the Intermediate I division.
Lexi Daniels, a junior, returns for her third season and will compete in vault, bars and floor. Daniels won the all-around in Intermediate II as a freshman. Kelsey Arabia, a sophomore, is in her second season and will compete in vault, bars and beam. She moved up from Intermediate II last year.
Sophomore Raquel Ruggeri, coach Ruggeri’s daughter, and freshman Georgia Brothers will vie for the all-around title.
Freshmen Isabella Leger and Chloe Werner will compete in all-around in Intermediate II and Claire Linderman will compete in vault and floor.
Brothers was friends with many of the gymnasts from competing together in their youth and is happy to be reunited with them on a team.
“It’s been awesome,” Brothers said. “A lot of us used to go to the same gym, but then we kind of all split off and went to other gyms, so it’s nice to be with them again all together on one team.
“I’m really proud to be a part of this group, and I’m proud of all the girls for sticking together to make it to WPIALs.”
Raquel Ruggeri and Brothers have been the two top scorers for the team all season. Ruggeri is a state champion on beam and is a Level 8 gymnast in USA gymnastics. Brothers also is a Level 8 gymnast.
Both are entering their first WPIAL championship and are looking forward to seeing how they stack up against the top gymnasts in the district.
“It’s going to be a fun thing to do. It’s a good opportunity,” Raquel Ruggeri said. “I’ve made a bunch of new friends with the Burrell team, and it’s going to be fun to be there with them this weekend.”
Brothers has her sights set on making a name for herself this weekend.
“Even as a freshman going into my first WPIALs my goal is to place,” Brothers said. “I want to make my mark that I’m going to be here for the rest of these high school years.”
All of Burrell’s gymnasts are underclassmen, so there’s potential for them to work together for years and build toward not only competing at WPIALs in individuals, but also making the team championships the night before. Coach Ruggeri is looking forward to this weekend and what could be a bright future.
“My main goal was to get them together as a team, get back in the gym and have fun with gymnastics,” Coach Ruggeri said. “A lot of them had never had that team experience before. Most of them were gymnasts when they were younger and competed individually, which is not the same thing as having a team around you.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.