A freshman phenom leads a group of all-around athletes from the Baldwin gymnastics team

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Sunday July 24, 2022 | 9:01


She is beyond being a freshman prospect.

Baldwin’s Abby Rexrode was one of the region’s top freshman athletes in the 2021-22 school year. Rexrode thrives in the gym, training year-round and striving to perfect his techniques and routines.

Baldwin’s underclass won both the WPIAL and all-around state championships in the diamond division — for advanced gymnasts — in 2021-22, two of the highest accolades at the high school level.

“It exceeded my expectations,” Rexrode said. “I never thought I would finish first in the Diamond Division for States or WPIAL as a rookie.”

Rexrode won the all-around title at the Pennsylvania Classic at Moon, which serves as the state high school championship for gymnastics.

“Once again Abby put in an outstanding performance,” Baldwin’s trainer Jodi Cummings said afterwards. “She’s an incredible athlete who continues to improve with each practice. I can’t wait to see what his future holds for him.

Rexrode finished first on beam, second on floor and fourth on vault and bars.

“My goal was to be first in the all-around because I knew I could do it,” Rexrode said. “I think it was a brilliant season. I was surprised how well I did individually and how well the team did. I can’t wait for my next three years.

The next step is its second season. Rexrode, who turned 15 in February, trains five days a week for nearly 20 hours a week during the summer.

“My goals are to add bigger tricks to my routines and improve my form for the upcoming season,” she said. “I went to gymnastics camp at Penn State and learned some new skills already.”

Another top Baldwin athlete, Abbey Herrle, a 2022 graduate, earned first place in the silver division balance beam event at the state meet. Herrle was the dictionary definition of athletic versatility in high school as she earned 15 varsity letters during her four years at Baldwin.

The 6ft Herrle competed in gymnastics, tennis, swimming and diving, indoor track and outdoor track. She earned what is believed to be a school record 15 varsity letters during her athletic career – four in gymnastics and indoor track, three in swimming/diving and outdoor track, and one in tennis.

“I also earned two MVP pins and two captain’s pins,” Herrle said. “I got an MVP and a captain’s pin for swimming and diving and for gymnastics.”

Other notable past letter winners at Baldwin include Ian Wild (14 college letters), Justin Schmotzer (13), Jenn Flynn (12), Karen Kovach (12), and Carole Zajac (12). Wild excelled in five sports (football, basketball, bowling, lacrosse, track and field) in his senior year.

Herrle, who earned a 3.5 GPA, plans to date Robert Morris where she will major in sports management and minor in finance while competing in the women’s track and field program.

She competed in the high jump, pole vault, shot put and discus at Baldwin, but plans to specialize in high jump and discus at RMU with the option of competing in the heptathlon.

“I started my senior track season with an ankle injury that robbed me of four weeks of training,” Herrle said, “but I ended up bouncing back and getting a personal best in every event at I participated in. It was a really good season and I’m so grateful to all my teammates and my throwing coaches, as well as my head coach, for making everything I could do possible.

“I thought my sports career (at Baldwin) was very successful. I had lows but I had more highs. I am so happy that I was able to bond and make so many great friendships that I will continue after high school. Some of my favorite memories happened on the track with my closest friends. Even my bad days weren’t that bad.

Abbey’s younger sister Annabelle, a Baldwin rookie and Gold Division gymnast in 2021-22, finished first on floor and fourth in all-around at the WPIAL final.

“Annabelle is a strong competitor,” said Cummings, who also coaches gymnasts for Thomas Jefferson. “She remains calm during the competition.”

Herrle, like her older sister, is a five-sport athlete. She earned varsity letters in soccer, swimming, gymnastics, indoor track and outdoor track and plans to continue her busy schedule throughout her school career. If she does, she’ll graduate from Baldwin with 20 college letters.

“Abbey and Annabelle are both exceptional athletes,” said Ed Helbig, Baldwin’s track and field coach. “The coaching staff was always discussing what events they would be competing in. With Abbey, we were sure to get points in the shot put, pole vault, high jump, javelin or discus. With Annabelle, we knew we would get points in the high jump, pole vault, long jump, triple jump, 100 meters and as a member of the 4 by 100 relay.

“When we went to an invite, I always wanted the girls to pick an event or two and focus on those events. But they wanted to do everything. Many times they would run all over a facility competing in four events. Add to that the many times that Annabelle would leave competition to compete with the football team, only to return to continue competing in a track or field event. But that was their attitude. They wanted to do everything. The only bad thing about Abbey and Annabelle is that we won’t have one for the 2023 season.”

Along with finishing second at the WPIAL and States, the Baldwin gymnasts went through the regular season undefeated and won a section title for the first time since 2016.

What can Rexrode, who trains and competes at Premier Gym for his high school and USA Gymnastics programs, do for an encore in 2022-23?

“I’m going to increase my difficulty level and make everything cleaner to hopefully get a higher score,” she said. “With this, I would like to do even better and try again to win WPIALs and States.

“It would also benefit my team.”

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