Coral Springs’ Gabby Greenwald thrives on gymnastics competition, and she was at the top of her game in the recent Tim Rand Invitational showcase meet at the Greater Ft. Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center.
The Tim Rand Invitational attracted 1,300 competitors from 15 states and three foreign countries, including Venezuela and the Bahamas.
“The top international competition in South Florida features the best of the best,” said meet director Randy Sikora said. “Only the top teams enter this high level event.”
The 11-year-old, representing the American Twisters organization, delivered a gold-medal winning performance in the vault competition as part of her top 10 (sixth place) all-around finish during her Level 8 session. The effort was commendable considering this is her first year in the more difficult level.
Eagle Ridge Elementary School, is no stranger to success in gymnastics and she continues to improve.
“It’s been going good,” said Greenwald, who won a gold medal on the beam in Level 7 last year. “It is really fun learning all of the new skills and doing them in competitions. When I do well in them it is a really satisfying feeling.”
Greenwald’s prior success includes taking first place in the Level 7 all-around at last year’s Presidential Classic, a four-day meet involving thousands of gymnasts from around the world.
Her best friend and fellow gymnast, Gabby Linden, also moved up in rank to Level 8. The pair met two years ago as Level 7s and have been inseparable since.
“It has been great because we motivate each other and push each other,” said Greenwald, who is aiming for a college scholarship. “It is really nice to have here there with me.”
Linden, 11 and a fifth-grade student at Donna Klein Jewish Academy, is thrilled to have Greenwald in her corner.
“It was really funny because I hadn’t known her when I started, but it is really awesome that we have become best friends,” said Linden, who trains with Greenwald at the American Twisters’ Coconut Creek gym. “Some days when I don’t feel the best or she doesn’t feel the best, we always make each feel like we can do it.”
Linden finished in sixth place in the state in the Level 7 all-around competition a year ago. At the Tim Rand meet, she achieved a bronze medal in the bars and a fourth-place finish on the beam.
Sikora, who runs not only the Twisters’ Coconut Creek facility but also one in Boca Raton, said the Fort Lauderdale meet honors former Hall of Fame gymnastics’ coach Tim Rand, who at age 51 died of a heart attack in 2007 in Port St. Lucie.
“This is the athletes’ last tune-up before the state championships,” Sikora said. “We have raised $50,000 over the past nine years and that money goes to the Tim Rand Legacy Fund benefiting coaches and athlete education in the southeast region of the United States.”
The state of Florida also uses money from the fund to send the higher-level gymnasts to regionals and nationals in addition to providing educational clinics for judges and coaches.
Park Avenue Gymnastics also had strong representation at the Tim Rand Invitational with 40 participating gymnasts.
“We were very proud of our girls with the Level 6s taking first place and the Level 8s finishing third overall, but second among Florida teams,” said Kathy Semok, girls’ team director and head coach of Park Avenue Gymnastics. “It was a great last meet prior to states. I really like the confidence the girls are starting to show.”
One of her competitors, 14-year-old Jessica Salazar of Cooper City, tied for third place in the all-around for her Level 8 session. She took the bronze medal on the beam and tied for third place in the floor exercise. It was an outstanding performance for the Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School eighth-grader who missed a good portion of the fall season with a broken hand.
“[Level 8] was a big change. I did one competition as a Level 7 and then I went right to Level 8,” Salazar said. “It is a lot more difficult because on each event you have to do certain skills.”
Salazar’s hand injury cost her three months of training, but she continued to do conditioning and stretching. She hopes to carry her Tim Rand Invitational success over into the state championship meet.
“I want to continue to do well at states,” said Salazar, who was the Level 6 state champion on the bars last year. “I’d like to make it to regionals.”
Gary Curreri can be reached at SportsCom5@aol.com.