The Thomas Jefferson gymnastics team is 3 for 3 in its short history as a program.
The Jaguars won their third consecutive section championship this season, giving them three titles in the three years of their existence. And they’ve posted an undefeated record in each of the seasons.
“We have had a solid season so far,” said Jodi Cummings, who coaches the TJ and Baldwin gymnasts. “We are getting more consistent on each event and making adjustments in routines, so that they’re getting a maximum start value.
“Our focus is now on the WPIAL meet because we haven’t yet been able to grasp that title.”
Thomas Jefferson finished 6-0 in Section 1. , cruising past Baldwin, Burrell, Fox Chapel, Hampton, North Allegheny and Pine-Richland The Baldwin girls finished 4-2.
Baldwin’s two seniors are Haili Cordell and Erin Winkowski. Cordell will attend Gannon, and Winkowski will go to IUP.
Thomas Jefferson’s seniors are Courtney Kelley, Kylie McCormick, Adara Getsy and Angelina Gambino. All four have college plans.
Kelley and McCormick will attend West Virginia, Getsy will go to Pitt-Johnstown and Gambino will travel to Dayton.
Kelley, a captain, is considered the anchor of the program. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to compete in her senior season after suffering an ACL injury last summer that required surgery in late August.
“As you can imagine,” she said, “I was completely devastated because I knew an ACL injury typically takes six months at minimum to recover through PT and getting back into it. It was difficult since I’ve been doing gymnastics for so long.”
Thomas Jefferson is a two-time WPIAL runner-up in the team competition. Last year, TJ captured the first state title in gymnastics in school history, taking first place in the gold division at the Pennsylvania Classic.
The Jaguars placed second in the gold division two years ago in their initial season of team competition.
This season, TJ is led by the four seniors, along with juniors Jade Conway, Maria Costa, Natalie Galioto, Demi Kondos and Natalie Moore.
Rounding out the squad are sophomores Erin Grueber, Jackie Gunther and Anna Weber and freshmen Kamryn Kameg, Kaylee Rehak and Sophia Stoicovy.
“We have a large TJ team this year, and we are strong all-around,” Cummings said. “We have been plagued with some injuries. Courtney Kelley hurt her knee at the end of summer. Kamryn Kameg hurt her foot (this season). Those girls were going to be contributing to our team score in a big way.”
Galioto finished first on bars and beam, fifth on the floor and third all-around in the diamond division at last year’s state meet.
“This is a great group of girls,” Galioto said. “It is so exciting that our team has grown to 15 gymnasts.
“Personally, I have made many upgrades to my routines,” Galioto said. “My coaches have been very supportive and a crucial part of my success with these new skills.”
As the winter season winds down, the TJ girls are focused on two things: the WPIAL and state championships.
“There has been so much talent (at TJ) the last few years,” Kelley said. “Our team has grown tremendously since I was a freshman.”
Baldwin placed second in the bronze division at last year’s Pennsylvania Classic after finishing first in the silver division in 2017.
The Highlanders, like the Jaguars, welcomed a host of talented freshmen to their program this season.
Along with Cordell and Winkowski, Baldwin’s squad consists of junior Alaina Wodarek, sophomores Bailey Harding and Julia Stipetic and freshmen Mia Dougherty, Kaylee Garofalo, Abbey Herrle, Hanna Kuchniky, Emily Schwab and Haley Staab.
Wodarek zeroed in on first place on the floor (gold division) at last year’s WPIAL finals.
“We are working hard as a team,” Wodarek said. “We have a strong lineup, perhaps the strongest in a while for Baldwin. I believe our team can go a long way, individually and together.”
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.