Eagles’ Powell, Gagliardi land at Ohio State
By John Bassetti
Between Adria Powell and Claire Gagliardi, Wednesday’s national letter-of-intent signing day at Hubbard High School showcased kills and skills.
Both Powell, a three-year volleyball standout, and Gagliardi, who has placed in nationals in gymnastics four times, signed letters of intent to attend Ohio State on scholarships for their respective sports.
Although a junior, Powell exits as Hubbard High’s all-time leader in kills for a career with 1,172.
Gagliardi, a senior, earned a Division I full ride from OSU’s gymnastics squad.
Powell, a 6-2 outside hitter, led Hubbard to a Division II district semifinal, but the Eagles lost to Lake Catholic on Oct. 25.
Powell will graduate early and will have all of the necessary credits when she gets her diploma in May.
“It’s a great opportunity [to attend Ohio State] because of all the benefits of being part of the team,” she said. Of course, the downside is missing my senior year, but, overall, I think it will be a good thing.”
Powell said she made her selection less than a month ago.
“They wanted a decision as soon as possible because the signing date was coming up and the sooner the better, especially if I had to start classes.”
This season, the 16-year-old Powell was a first-team, All-State pick and the District I Player of the Year in Division II.
Powell surpassed Katy Jo Mroski’s school record for career kills after recording 1,172 over her three years. Powell also has a school-record 36 kills in a match against Jefferson.
Powell started playing Junior Olympic volleyball while in sixth grade.
Height and reach are her strongest attributes.
“Since I’m tall, it’s easier to touch the ball against shorter players. I get a lot of sets, so you’ve got to be able to do something with those sets and put the ball away.”
She plans to study biology and pre-med in hopes of becoming a surgeon.
Powell’s prolific high school seasons had ups and downs.
“My first year, we were 5-17 and not very good. The next year, we flip-flopped that and went 16-5, then 22-2.”
Powell, the daughter of Greg and Olivia (McFarland) Powell, will end her high school sports experience as a spring track team member in the high jump, hurdles and 4-x-400.
Gagliardi is taking the conventional path toward graduation and the 4-10 athlete has high aspirations. She credits Olympic Dreams training center for her progress since gymnastics isn’t recognized as a sport at Hubbard.
“Gymnastics isn’t a school-affiliated sport at Hubbard, but it is a big deal in the gymnastics community. We all understand each other and that’s where everything is taught and practiced,” Gagliardi said.
Gymnasts such as Claire get their exposure at various meets.
“I started going to nationals in eighth grade and that’s when I got letters and e-mails [from college coaches]. Coaches are contacting my coaches, so, I started thinking that maybe I could do this for a career,” Gagliardi said. “Before, I just thought of it as a fun activity.”
Gagliardi declared for Ohio State as a freshman and called signing day “icing on the cake.”
Gagliardi’s previous four trips to nationals ended with top-10 finishes on bars each time. She said her current goal is to get gold on bars.
Although floor exercise is her favorite event, Claire developed a skill on bars that is unique.
”It’s called the Ejova and I’m one of the only girls in the country who does it,” she said. “It used to be a skill, then it faded off, but my coaches [Dawn and Gary Touissant] taught it to me. Because it’s so unique, they call it the Air Claire. Coaches don’t know it as Ejova, they just know it as Air Claire.”
When she was 11 days old, Claire had heart surgery and now goes for checkups every two years.
“The doctor tells me that gymnastics is the best sport to put me in because of all the cardio that keeps blood pumping. I’d like to think that gymnastics is made for me.”
Academically, Gagliardi is undecided. She said she’s leaning toward psychology and is considering opening her own business.
“Because I’ve been in gymnastics so long, I was thinking of helping others like me,” she said. “Instead of the things that I went through, I could help them [gymnasts] because I have first-hand experience of what they’re going through.”