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Nassau gymnasts go to the mat to take on cystic fibrosis

Erin Agoglia from South Side at

Erin Agoglia from South Side at "Cartwheels for a Cure", a Nassau high school girls gymnastics event that raised thousands of dollars for Cystic Fibrosis on Saturday, Jan 18, 2020 in Oceanside. Credit: Pablo Garcia Corradi

There weren’t any final scores announced after the sixth annual Cartwheel for a Cure gymnastics meet Saturday at Oceanside.

Instead, athletes from the 10 competing teams helped break down and store equipment, while others left with smiles, recounting everything they’d accomplished during the afternoon. Because unlike other meets, this one wasn’t about the numbers gymnasts posted in each event.

It was about the numbers they’ll donate.

Organized by Cold Spring Harbor coach Teri Kindelmann, the teams raised money for the Boomer Esiason Foundation, funding research for cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and other organs. Both of Kindelmann’s daughters, 9-year-old Matison and 7-year-old Charlotte, have CF.

“The gymnastics community comes together,” Kindelmann said. “This is a little stress-free competition as opposed to dual meets. It’s fun for them and they love coming here and being a part of it.”

Since its start, the meet has grown and this year, for the first time included all 20 gymnastics teams in Nassau. The other 10 teams will compete at Cold Spring Harbor on Monday afternoon and Kindelmann said she expects the gymnasts will have raised “about $10,000.”

“My daughters go to Cohen’s Children Hospital, so [the Boomer Esiason Foundation has] been working with my doctors and the CF doctors there,” Kindelmann said. “They’ve been providing new technologies, drug trials and that’s what this money we’ve raised goes toward.”

Of course, planning an event of this size isn’t easy.

Kindelmann reached out to coaches before the season began, finding “out how many girls are on each team ... We make envelopes, so kids can go ask for donations,” and credited Bethpage coach Kim Rhatigan for “helping and making sure everything goes as planned.” Teams spent most of December asking for donations, a tradition they’ve come to relish.

Oceanside coach Andrew Morris said the Sailors asked each of their gymnasts to try and raise $25. By final count, they’d raised nearly $1,400.

“We go around the school and ask our teachers and we ask our friends for the change from their lunch money, ask family members,” Oceanside senior Emma Gehrig said. “We go around and see if anyone is willing to give to this cause and almost everyone is because it really means something.”

Morris also credited Nassau gymnastics for coming together for a common cause, saying: “I don’t think there is another sport that can say they have all of the teams playing that sport do what we’ve done. There’s a lot of generosity here.”

For many gymnasts, the meet is an opportunity to compete without much pressure and, perhaps more importantly, watch their friends, as well. Gehrig called gymnastics “a small sport,” one in which most of the athletes have known each other far longer than their high school careers.

Though they might not be on the same team all the time, during a day like this, they’re all rooting for each other.

“The only other event that you can see so many other teams compete is team counties,” Long Beach junior Allison Cohen said. “Seeing all the other girls and how they’re having fun and cheering for their team makes it even more special.”

Although there wasn’t a focus on scores, South Side placed first (160.950) in the meet, led by Erin Agoglia and Payton Waller. Agoglia placed first in the all-around (33.100) and floor (9.300), and Waller finished second in all-around (32.800) and floor (9.100).

In years past, all Cartwheel for a Cure athletes wrap up the meet by doing as many cartwheels as they can in a certain amount of time. The weather prevented that Saturday, with teams leaving to avoid the snowstorm, but despite the cold, nothing could damper their collective spirit or their support of Kindelmann’s family.

“These meets, my girls feel like they’re superstars,” Kindelmann said. “They love that the girls come up to them and talk to them by name. They feel really connected to the girls.”

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