GRANGER TWP. — Briana Gironda isn’t the most physically intimidating athlete at Highland, but she might be the best.
The 5-foot senior, a five-time United States regional club meet qualifier, has accepted an NCAA Division I gymnastics scholarship from William & Mary.
“I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to go to a D-I school somewhere down south, so this is a dream come true,” said Gironda, who received $20,000 toward her freshman tuition and will be on a full scholarship for the remainder of her schooling.
“It’s a little scary knowing I’ll be that far away from home, but at the same time, I’m so excited to get started. It’s an amazing opportunity.”
William & Mary is located in Williamsburg, Va., and is a member of the Colonial Athletic Conference. The Tribe’s gymnastics team, however, competes in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference against universities along the eastern seaboard.
Gironda is quite familiar with that part of the country, having competed at the 2012 Junior Olympic National Invitation Tournament in Hampton, Va. She placed 14th in the all-around while representing Head Over Heels Gymnastics in Strongsville.
“Gymnastics is definitely a passion for me, which it has to be if you want to be successful,” said Gironda, who won the 2010 state club championship in the all-around and balance beam. “I wouldn’t practice 3½ hours a day, five days a week if I didn’t love it.”
Not only has practice made Gironda’s skills near-perfect, it helped her get discovered by William & Mary’s coaching staff. Strongsville High graduate Allie Marko is on the Tribe’s roster and encouraged the team to recruit her club partner.
Gironda contacted William & Mary coach Mary Lewis, who was so impressed with her skills, she invited the 17-year-old to make an official visit to the campus in November.
“I committed before I even left the school,” Gironda said. “I felt an immediate bond with the girls on the team and the coaches. My parents (Roberto and Terri) also were really impressed, so they fully supported my decision.”
The Granger Township resident, who has a 4.07 grade-point average, also was bowled over by the academic opportunities at the college. Her favorite class at Highland is chemistry, and she plans on pursuing a career in sports medicine.
“I know how hard it is to balance club gymnastics with your studies because I’ve done it since I was 8,” Gironda said. “It’s difficult, but it makes everything you accomplish that much more rewarding.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.