After a two-year hiatus, North Shore’s gymnastic team is back - and with a standout male competitor to add to the flying fun.
Two years ago, its gymnastic season was wiped out by Covid-19. Last year, only four Vikings’ gymnasts came out and their star competitor Rebecca Grossman needed shoulder surgery before training camp.
In addition, Marco Giannola, part of the original four, wouldn’t have his scores count in competitions. Hence, North Shore scrapped its season.
With an influx of freshmen, North Shore, coached by 1999 graduate Melissa Vassallo, has a team of seven. Grossman, now a junior, has recovered from her shoulder ailment and is performing with gusto.
“I’m very thankful there’s a team again,’’ Grossman said. “The last time I was on the team was as a freshman. Growing up doing gymnastics I always loved being part of a team. This team holds a special place in my heart. It’s made me very happy.’’
Having been soaring in gyms since age 6, she’s achieved a mighty goal - qualifying for the Nassau County individual championships (Feb. 14 at Carle Place) in the floor exercise.
“It’s her work ethic,’’ said Vassallo, a Sea Cliff native and Vikings gymnast in the late 1990’s. “The year off, since being a ninth-grader. both mentally and physically she’s matured a lot, gained a lot of strength. She also used to have a fear and she’s not letting fear get in the way anymore and thus is improving more quickly. When you start flipping, gymnastics can be scary.”
Giannola, a sophomore, has never showed any fear, becoming the highest-scoring gymnast on the team. However, his scores are just for show. As such, North Shore has won just one meet this season.
“He’s consistently scoring in the 9’s,’’ Vassallo said. “He’s a perfectionist. He’s beautiful to watch. He floats. literally floats.’’
Giannola’s presence has been met warmly by the girls. It’s a very rare occurrence for a boy to be part of the gymnastics squad.
“It’s definitely different,’’ Grossman said. “But he adds a lot in terms of energy and skills.’’
“They love him,’’ Vassallo added. “He’s our movie star. He’s very funny. (Marco and Rebecca) both have such a great work ethic that they’re great role models. As soon as we start practice, they are working 110 percent.’’
The rest of the squad is relatively new to the sport but showing improvement. They are all freshmen - Deanna Fromigia, Joshlynn Wang, Abigail Neice, Danielle DeMillio and Ariana Giannola, Marco’s sister.
Key for development is Vassallo having assistant Cassandra Amaya on her staff. Amaya is a 2005 graduate who also is a former Vikings gymnast. They are still trying to build a full-blown roster.
“It's a building year, a building program,’’ Vassallo said. “We’re trying to create awareness there is a team. It begins in middle school - which a lot of students don’t know.’’
For now, it’s the individual showings of the two G’s Grossman and Giannola. Grossman’s floor exercise has been everyone in maroon proud.
The 5-4 Grossman, who has a third-degree black belt in Taw Kwan Do, talks about the “first tumbling pass’ as her best move – a front aerial that blends into a side aerial (cartwheel with no hands).
“I love being able to show off my floor skills and my personality in my dance movements,’’ Grossman said. “There’s a lot of emotion in my dancing. I love performing.’’