EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 15, 2013

Raising the bar

By Dave Dyer

---- — SALEM — It’s not quite all gymnastics all the time for Salem freshman Nina Whitaker, but it’s close.

Whitaker has been involved with gymnastics since she was 2-years-old. For the last seven years, she has been training at and competing with Wilkeys Gymnastics in Tewksbury.

She views her first year of high school gymnastics as a nice break from the usual grind of club gymnastics.

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s not as tense,” said Whitaker. “I like being part of the (high school) team.”

First-year coach Kyle Redmond certainly enjoys having Whitaker on the team. With returning Eagle-Tribune All-Star Kadie Tommasi out with a concussion, she was the top point scorer and all-around winner in the Blue Devils’ first three meets.

With Tommasi just now returning to the lineup on a full-time basis and some improving depth, Salem appears to be much stronger than expected. That was the case yesterday when Salem remained unbeaten by winning a four-team meet at home even with Whitaker home sick and the Devils only placing in the top three in two events.

Contrary to concern to the contrary, the Devils, who were state runner-up last year, have apparently not declined.

Even with the departure of long-time head coach Ginnie LaVallo, who won 12 state titles in 29 years, along with graduation losses.

Redmond isn’t sure yet how the Blue Devils will stack up against defending state champion and New England runner-up Pinkerton, but she likes what she’s seen of his team.

“I think that we have a lot of depth this year,” said Redmond. “We have four or five girls who all have the potential to compete in the all-around.

“Since we haven’t seen Pinkerton yet this season it’s hard to comment. We have a lot of potential and a lot of talent, but until we go head to head with the Astros we won’t know how everything will fall into place.”

Thus far, with Tommasi returning to join Whitaker, things are falling into place nicely.

“Kadie and Nina are both great gymnasts, but they’re both very different gymnasts,” said Redmond. “Kadie is graceful and Nina is powerful. Both will bring huge scores for us, as they’re both high level gymnasts. ... Nina excels on vault and floor and Kadie is beautiful to watch on bars and beam.”