In recent years, North Allegheny and Pine-Richland high schools have been forces to reckon with on the WPIAL gymnastics scene, even though Moon Area has been the dominant team as it has won the past three WPIAL team championships, including last Saturday's event on its home floor.
In future years, expect North Allegheny and Pine-Richland to be competitive yet again as the Tigers finished second at the WPIAL team championships with 145.200 points, while Pine-Richland was third with 141.450 points. Moon edged North Allegheny for top honors with 145.825 points.
There could be another team from the North area contending for top honors down the road, though, as Hampton finished a strong fifth in the 10-team field with 138.775 points. Coach Kinsey Basko was quite pleased with his team's initial foray into the sport.
In the regular season, Basko's team finished fourth with a 6-3 dual-meet record.
"We had a super successful year even though we had a late start," he said. "We lost a few kids, but we gained points and speed throughout the season. We had a pretty successful season."
Basko said his team competed well against the teams that defeated his squad in the regular season.
"There were few teams we did not beat, [we had] very close meets against them," he said, referring to losses against Moon, North Allegheny and Baldwin. "We were just a couple of tenths [of points] apart from those teams."
Basko said his team will need to replace just two seniors, but the rest are expected to return: "We have one freshman and the rest are sophomores. So, the majority of our team will be back.
"Next year is definitely going to be more successful than this year with the kids that we have, and we have some more talent coming up from eighth grade."
Pine-Richland coach optimistic
Pine-Richland gymnastics coach Alex Jewart was pleased with the large turnout he had for this year's team that finished third in the WPIAL championships.
"We had almost 20 girls on the team, and a lot of them were young," he said. "We had many ninth- and 10th-graders."
He's optimistic about his team's future as the Rams lose just three competitors from this year's team.
"So, we should have about 15 coming back, and there will be some coming up from the eighth-grade class," Jewart said
One of those graduating seniors, Carrie Leibensperger finished first in the uneven bars with a score of 9.500, and she finished seventh in the all-around competition with 36.725 points.
Jewart said the results bore out the recent trend that has taken place at the WPIAL meet.
NA girl all-around champ
North Allegheny's Danijela Jergan saved her best for last as her winning effort in the floor exercise vaulted her over several other competitors and earned her the all-around title at the WPIAL gymnastics championships.
A junior, she won the floor exercise with 9.725 points. Combined with a sixth-place effort on the balance beam (9.325), a third-place finish in the vault (9.500) and another third-place finish in the uneven bars (9.450), those efforts combined to give her the all-around title with 37.900 points, just ahead of Moon Area senior Megan Tamilia (37.525).
"I'm excited that all of my hard work paid off," Jergan said. "Winning the team title would have been better, but I'm happy for myself."
Jergan's score in the floor exercise was her highest of the season.
The Tigers should be strong next year as none of the eight competitors on their roster is a senior.