Thomas Jefferson's Gennaula sisters enjoy a healthy sibling rivalry
Kevin Gennaula still remembers when he was in middle school watching his older brother, Chuck, throw shot put as a freshman for Thomas Jefferson.
“When he started throwing in high school I went up and watched him,” Kevin said. “I said, ‘Boy, I kind of like that.' I started throwing in middle school and continued through high school, and took it all the way through college.”
Nearly 30 years later, Kevin is a teacher at Pleasant Hills Middle School and co-head coach of the Thomas Jefferson varsity track and field program.
And Chuck's daughters, Allie and Paige, have followed in the family footsteps, excelling in sports at the same school as their dad and uncle.
“It is interesting watching my daughters compete in golf and track just like my brother and I did,” said Chuck, a 1983 Thomas Jefferson graduate.
Growing up, Chuck, Kevin and their sister, Pam, all threw for TJ track. Chuck and Kevin threw collegiately at the University of Pittsburgh.
Allie, who graduated from TJ last year, threw shot put and discus for her uncle, and Kevin admits it was different at first coaching his niece.
“It was weird the first year having a family member because I never coached a family member,” Kevin said. “After the first few practices, you just start to see them as another athlete.”
Other than throwing, Allie played basketball, soccer and golf, and was a majorette for the TJ band. Now a freshman on the golf team at Division I South Carolina Upstate, Allie appreciates her time as a TJ athlete and realizes the significance of growing up in the same community that her family did.
“I definitely enjoy it knowing that I walked up and down the same hallways my dad and uncle did,” Allie said. “People my dad and uncle graduated with, their kids are like my best friends. It's fun.”
Just as throwing has been a family affair, golf is taken just as seriously.
Paige, a freshman at Thomas Jefferson, recently placed 14th at the WPIAL Class AAA Section 2 girls' individual qualifier at Rolling Hills Country Club.
“I try to golf every day,” Paige said. “I'm trying my best to break 40.”
This past August, the four went golfing just as they have before, and Kevin was impressed with his nieces' play, especially Paige's progress.
“I've golfed with Allie numerous times and she's a pretty long hitter,” Kevin said. “I haven't golfed with Paige in probably three years (before August), and I was really impressed with her swing. It's a really nice swing.”
Both Allie and Paige admit there is a healthy sibling rivalry between them, but that doesn't keep them from helping each other whenever they can.
“I help her all the time,” Allie said. “We'll be out practicing five to six hours because that's how you get better.”
Paige added: “She's my best friend. She's always taught me from when I was real little how to play golf. She's always encouraging me to play better.”
As the sisters continue to finish out their respective seasons, both are looking forward to Thanksgiving break when Allie comes home from college.
“I'm real excited,” Paige said. “When she gets back we'll see who's better. Maybe she will or maybe I will.”
In response, Allie added: “We'll see when I come back for Thanksgiving how good she is.”
Either way, it will be about spending quality family time together. Something their dad enjoys more than anything.
“It's been fun being able to watch them grow as golfers and compete against each other,” he said.
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.