A group of gymnasts posing with their trophies.

RI State Champions, Miller’s Gymnastics moves on to the regionals – John Cardullo

Photo: Overall State silver individual medalist

Miller’s Gymnastics win the Rhode Island State Championship and it’s on to the Regionals!

It was a gray, misty, raw and chilly day at the Recreational Center on the campus of Rhode Island College, but for the Gymnastic teams of Miller’s Gymnastics it was as bright as the gold, silver and bronze medals the winning competitors wore around their necks as they walked away as the Silver Division National Gymnastics Association Rhode Island State Champions.

The team, led by overall State Champion Kyla Cook who medaled in the Vault, Balance Beam and Floor took home the State Champion trophy as she and her teammates Cinzia Mersey, Frankie Finelli, Payton McParlin, Kaylianna Giraldo and Morgan Laroache won their share of medal hardware enroute to the Silver Division team State Championship as they punched their ticket to compete in the upcoming Regional competition.

The Gold team of Aliyah Washington (who won the individual State Championship), Mia Accetturo, Khloe Medeiros and Marissa Morsilli all medaled in different events but fell short from a State Championship of their own. Coach Tom Miller who owns the gym where the teams train under his and his staff’s closely watched eye, explains “a 10th of a point deduction can mean a slight bend of the knee or a misalignment in the execution of a particular part of the overall performance. It is the judge’s opinion that determines Gold to Silver or Silver to Bronze and many times it is unnoticed by the untrained eye.” Although the Gold team didn’t take the State title they did qualify to advance to the Regionals as the athletes medaled in several of the qualifying events.

To the average spectator, gymnastics is a sport that they tune into every four years during a two-week span when the Olympics take the spotlight. What is seen is a team that goes on to compete on the World stage. What is not seen is the work the athlete puts in daily to become an Olympic champion. The work that the coaches and staff put in to prepare that athlete to compete at the highest level and if you think about all the competitors going for 6 spots on the Olympic team it is mind boggling! The athletes odds of making a professional sports team are much greater than becoming and Olympic Gymnast. But for the young ladies at Miller’s Gymnastics, it’s about having fun, socializing with other girls with a similar passion and love for the sport as they become a self-confident athlete.

For Coach Miller whose career spans over 45 years and resume includes being the Head Gymnastic coach at Brown University for 12 years. As a competitor from 1971 to 1991, Miller accumulated medals and championships throughout the country. Placing 3rd place or better in the All-Around in every local, regional, and national competition his entire career. Earning his bachelor’s degree (BGS) Summa Cum Laude from Rhode Island College in 1999, he served in the United States Airforce from 1984 – 1986. But it has been the sport of Gymnastics that Coach Miller prides himself as a coach sharing his knowledge and experience with his students. Using simple short lessons to make his point to his 220 students. “I teach my athletes that safety comes first as instruction and directive becomes execution with positive enforcement.” Breaking down lessons as they apply to gymnastics, which can also be applied to everyday life. The coach and his staff become mentors for life lessons that the athletes will certainly benefit from as they get older. “We teach more than vaults, balance beam, and tumbling here. When the athletes come into the gym for the first time, they are young, wide eyed and scared, they evolve to a confident, self-assured young athlete that will take away lessons that can be applied in their everyday life.”  

For the athlete to be successful lessons are broken down to easy phrases that the athlete will remember and apply as they get better and advance. Mastering the small things enables the competitor to move onto the bigger, more complicated things. “Power, speed and direction” is a phase often heard in the gym. It begins with the basics of building a foundation, then once that is formed both the athlete and coach expand on that cornerstone and work on perfecting the skill to the point where it becomes second nature.

The staff at Miller’s Gymnastics consists of some of his former students but all were trained by Coach Miller to become coaches. Alyssa Haynes, Leah Wilbur, Talya Moitoso and Addision Neil work with all the students. But when preparing the competitive teams for an event they focus on every detail that the competitor may not even know they are doing – bending an arm or dropping their chin a bit lower during their routines. The coaches oversee each movement, looking for the slightest error that could cost the competitor points.

In gymnastics the smallest point deduction could mean being on the podium or off, taking the Gold medal or taking the Bronze. These coaches, like Coach Miller himself, hawk eye everything, they adjust and suggest on how to make the routine better, on how to make the athlete give a bit more of themselves. There is no criticism but rather a suggestion on how to improve a routine. It is only when the coach and athlete are satisfied, they move on. There is no yelling, it’s a team approach as the athlete and coach work as one as they discuss and come up with ways to make the routine better. The days of doing what the coach tells you are long gone at Miller’s; the athlete has a lot of input to their routine, but the coach pushes the athlete to have better skills.

On Sunday, May 14th the 10 athletes of Team Millers’ will compete for regional medals. The competition will be held once again at the Recreational Center on the campus of Rhode Island College. One thing is for certain that the ladies on the team – they are ready for the competition and cannot wait to hit the floor running!


John Cardullo, sportswriter

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