Size no issue for Belle Vernon trackster, gymnast

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 6:52 p.m.

When Belle Vernon junior Lauren Galiszewski was born prematurely 17 years ago, she weighed 1 pound, 6 ounces and at 12 inches long was no bigger than your standard loaf of bread. Even after a 12-week hospital stay that fostered her development and growth, no one could envision the, pun intended, strides she would make.

On both the track and in the gymnastics arena.

Though born with fibrous coalitions in her right ankle, Galiszewski has since her freshman year been the best sprinter on the squad, Belle Vernon head girls track coach Rodd Kavic said.

Galiszewski's success in track and gymnastics mitigates any discomfort that accompanies the fibrous coalitions which, she explained, “is having extra fibers between my bones that are not supposed to be there; plus there is extra calcium growth in my right ankle.”

While that may not be common, no one, including doctors, was aware of the condition until an injury or strain affected the fibers or ankle, she continued. “There is some discomfort or pain when I overuse the ankle in track or gymnastics, but ice or mild pain medication is the remedy.”

Running for the Lady Leopards as a freshman, Galiszewski ran the third leg on a 400 meter relay team that competed in the WPIAL championships. Already this young season she has set personal records. Her best 100-meter time was 13.24, which she lowered to 12.94 in early April (the WPIAL qualifying time is 12.65). In the 200 meters, her previous best of 27.9, set earlier this year, has been lowered to 27.1 (the WPIAL qualifying time is 26.2).

Participating in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meter relay events, her best event is the 100, Kavic said, adding that Galiszewski now runs the leadoff leg in the relay. As a freshman she finished sixth in the Big-8 Conference meet in the 100.

“As a freshman Lauren had an immediate impact on our team. She is so quick at the start and obviously fast, but she also runs the curves (turns) well in the relay,” said Kavic, in his 12th season coaching the Leopards, adding that, at 5 feet 2 inches and 105 pounds, “her size appears to be an advantage and adds to her success on the curves. At the same time, she is a charismatic girl, a hard worker who strives for excellence in everything she does. She is dedicated and works until she gets things right. She earns what she gets. Lauren is a team-first person and will run in another event when and where necessary. She does so much for our team and does what we ask. She has high expectations for herself and is disappointed if she does not perform as well as she thinks she should. She is positive and very well-liked and often helps to lighten the mood of the team.”

When her track season coincides with gymnastics, Galiszewski “will often leave our practices and go to gymnastics,” said Kavic, who teaches geography, law and advanced placement European history classes at Belle Vernon. “Lauren is committed to both sports.”

However, having participated in gymnastics since she was 6 years old, she did not become acquainted with the track until her freshman year, encouraged by her father, Tom.

“I didn't know anything about track except that you had to run fast,” Galiszewski said, before echoing Kavic's assessment that her size “may be an advantage in both sports. I'm short and I don't weigh much and both probably help.”

Competing against gymnasts from six states at the Big Dog meet in Charleston, W.Va., in December, she was named All-Around Big-Dog Champion.

Kristin Henry, Galiszewski's coach at BG's Gymnastics in Monessen added that at the Pennsylvania state gymnastics championship March 22 in Beaver County, Galiszewski finished fourth in vault, second on bars and third all-around in a Level 7 competition featuring the top competitors across the Commonwealth.

“In floor exercises, tumbling is one of Lauren's strengths,” Henry added. “On the (uneven) bars, she does excellent hand stands and forward circling giants (performing a full circle around the bar). She listens to our instructions and is a pleasure to coach. She has made continued progress, especially the last several years and is starting to excel in her events as she approaches (the elite) Level 8.”

When Galiszewski isn't on the track or on gymnastics equipment, she finds time at Belle Vernon to belong to the Interact and MIC-SADD clubs, as well as the prom committee. Outside of school, she is both an altar server and Eucharistic minister at St. Sebastian's Church in Belle Vernon.

Galiszewski plans to continue her track career in college and become an athletic trainer.

“I just don't want to sit at a desk all day,” she said, chuckling, “and being a trainer will keep me active with the sport.”

Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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