MONTICELLO, NY — “Practice makes perfect,” goes the oft-spoken adage, but when it comes to perfection in gymnastics according to the judges, the allotment of a score of 10 on a routine is something rarely given. In his storied career as a coach of Monticello Gymnastics since 1976, Pedro Tweed can count on one hand the number of times one of his gymnasts has earned such an honor. Add one more finger to the count now that 11-year old Grace Gaebel, a sixth grader at Sullivan West elicited a perfect score in her vault at the Princess Classic Gymnastics Meet staged at the Athletic Edge Facility in Staten Island on March 22 to 24. Gaebel and her Level Four teammates received crowns for their stellar performance, but the demure, hard-working Gaebel, who is only in her second year, got a second crown for being the very first gymnast in the history of the Athletic Edge Facility to ever earn a perfect score.
According to coach Amanda Tweed, her vault featured a flawless execution of all of the elements assessed by the judges, namely a rapid acceleration in her approach to the springboard, a straight back as she came off and rounded off into a perfect handstand, excellent form as she pushed off with her shoulders and a completely flat landing with her toes positioned exactly in place. “She just showed excellent control and movement,” noted Tweed, who said that Gaebel had begun the year before in summer classes, had moved almost immediately to the pre-team and then on to a brief stint in Level Three before moving up to Level Four.
Gaebel wanted to learn how to do a front handspring and had asked her mother to sign her up for gymnastics. She competes on the balance beam, the uneven bars, the vault and in the floor exercises. The latter is her favorite. She scored a near-perfect 9.8 on floor at the meet. Gaebel attends practice three days a week and has competed in five meets thus far this year. Every four years the routines and requirements are changed making them more difficult. Consequently, Level Four gymnasts like Gaebel will soon be judged on skills now performed by Level Five gymnasts.
“I like tumbling the best,” says Gaebel, who describes Pedro and Amanda as “really good coaches.” After her perfect performance, Gaebel feels a lot more confident. The facility in which the Monticello gymnasts practice has been in use for more than 10 years. Once a perfume factory, it became the home for the legions of gymnasts who travel from the far reaches of Sullivan County to be coached by the terrific Tweeds. A grant from the United Way helped Monticello Gymnastics move from its former home in the Neighborhood Facility, a place where they would have to take down the equipment after each practice. Now with everything set up in place, the atmosphere is picture perfect for the boys and girls to try and follow the lead set by Gaebel who embodies the truth of the adage that with hard work, determination and perseverance, practice can indeed lead to perfection.