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Gymnastics team making comeback at Hampton High

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A group of Hampton High School students are head-over-heels for the chance to finally compete on a school gymnastics team.

By an 8-1 vote last week, the Hampton school board approved the reinstatement of the high school gymnastics program, which was met with applause by the audience of Hampton gymnasts and parents at the school board meeting on Sept. 9.

“I was really excited and happy it was approved,” said Ali Sullivan, a 10th-grader at Hampton High School. “I kind of wanted a school team so I could represent my school … just so I could contribute something to my school and be recognized in my school in some way.”

Sullivan, who is a level-9 gymnast with Pittsburgh Northstars club team, is one of more than a dozen female gymnasts who expressed interest in a district team.

Hampton Township School District had a gymnastics team in the 1970s and 1980s before it disbanded. In recent years, the school district has sponsored individual athletes representing Hampton in WPIAL and PIAA meets. But Athletic Direct Bill Cardone said the time is right to reinstate the team.

“We have a group of girls in ninth, 10th and 11th grade who really want to represent their school district, and be involved in the athletic aspect of it,” Cardone said. “There also are some girls at middle school also involved, so we think the future is good.”

Cardone said there is money in the athletics budget to support a team, and that the district would need to hire a coach before the season starts on Nov. 18. He hopes to recommend a coach for board approval as early as next month.

Ali's mother, Michelle Sullivan, of Hampton, said she helped to provide Cardone with options for gymnastics' facilities and cost estimates to establish a team. Final cost estimates were not available from the district.

“We've done a lot of work over the past year to pull all the information we needed to pull together to really justify having the team,” Sullivan said.

Larry Vasko, school board member and finance chairperson, said the potential costs were the only reason he voted “no” to reinstating the gymnastics team.

“I fully am in favor of gymnastics as a sport … my problem is a money issue,” Vasko said. “We raised taxes this year. I assume we're moving to raise taxes next year. This can be done as a club sport and I fully support that. It's tough to keep telling people we're raising taxes.”

Gymnastics is a winter sport and will run from Nov. 18 through the WPIAL championships and finals on Feb. 8. Practices and home meets will be held at Jewart's Gymnastics, in Hampton.

“I'm in the business for kids, and I think any opportunity we can provide our kids not only to represent themselves and their school district is a great thing,” Cardone said. “I'm looking forward to it.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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