By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PARK, Pa. - For most households, family dinners are spent around the dining room
table, but for sophomore men's gymnast Brayden Borromeo, dinners were spent at
the local YMCA where his family grew to love gymnastics together.
"It really gave us a lot
of together time," Brayden's mother, Renee Borromeo, said. "We didn't very
often get all of us sitting around the dinner table together in our house but
we would often have together at the gym or at restaurants."
Before the Borromeos
found their second family at Penn State, they created their close-knit nuclear
family in Littlestown, Pennsylvania as each of the four Borromeo children found
themselves spending time together and training in preparation for the next
At the head of the family
stands Renee and Nino Borromeo; two established professionals in the physical
therapy field. Renee is an associate teaching professor at Mont Alto, and the
program head for all of the Physical Therapy programs in Penn State's
commonwealth, while her husband, Nino, is a practicing physical therapist.
"It really was helpful to
have them there to be able to diagnose injuries and to help with recovery and
just be there all the time for me," Brayden's older brother and former Penn
State gymnast, Josh Borromeo, said on how his parents helped his own gymnastics
from their ability to help their children through injuries, the two parents
also immersed themselves in the gymnastics community in their own way. Renee
coached, while Nino was the president of the Gymnastics Parents Association at
the previously mentioned YMCA.
"Gymnastics was really
one of the core activities that my family was involved in," Josh said. "My
mother coached, my father was president of the gymnastics parents' organization
growing up when we were younger, so I mean a lot of our vacations, a lot of our
family friends, were involved with gymnastics."
Josh, the oldest of the
four Borromeo children, first began gymnastics when he was five-years-old.
"One day Josh, the
oldest, came home from school with a little flyer that said it's an after-school
program and they would bus the kids from the school to the YMCA for once a week
an hour of gymnastics and would bus them back and that started it," Renee said.
"Next thing you know, he's going three days a week then we're going five days
then we ended up being seven days a week."
From there, the Borromeos
became a gymnastics family as Renee and Nino's two daughters, Maiata and Eliza,
and their youngest son, Brayden, followed in Josh's footsteps.
"We just were in the gym
all the time, every weekend," Renee said. "There were sometimes four different
meets in four different places and with all four kids going."
"We all had something we could connect upon,"
Brayden said. "It really brought us a lot closer because we were all in the gym
all the time and you could always look over and see what your brothers and
sisters were doing during gymnastics...We always strived to be better than each
other because we wanted everyone to be the best that they could be."
competitive gymnastic careers sent them across the country from Georgia all the
way to Oregon.
"Car rides, plane trips,
we did those things and it became apart of our family vacation structure and we
just spent a lot of time together," Renee said.
The Borromeos pursued
their love for gymnastics, athletics, achievement, and each other to the
doorsteps of Rec Hall and Penn State.
"Really there was no
question in anyone's minds where they were going to go to school and it was
through the connection and just visiting the campuses and getting a feel for
the culture that we really really started to love it," Renee said on Penn
Although Maiata and Eliza
chose to diverge from their gymnastics background upon admission to Penn State,
they found ways to unite their family's shared work ethic and athleticism.
While pursuing an arts
and architecture degree, Maiata involved herself with Penn State's competitive
ballroom dance team. She is now an established interior designer in New York.
As a current senior at
Penn State, Eliza will be graduating as an ambassador for Changing Health,
Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls (CHAARG), with a kinesiology degree.
She plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy after graduation.
"What you need in
gymnastics is that kind of high level of motivation," Renee said. "You fall a
thousand times before you ever get it right and to set the goal and work hard
for a long time to achieve it. It takes that kind of a personality and I think
it builds that kind of personality too. I can see they are all successful as
young adults...you know it kind of still permeates their lives that goal setting and
the long-term goals and being able to figure out the steps that it takes to get
Before the two sisters
made their way to Happy Valley as students, the Borromeos first joined the Penn
State and men's gymnastics community when Josh joined the team in 2005. In the
tradition of head coach Randy Jepson and the Penn State's gymnastics program,
Josh fully embodied the role of student-athlete as he majored in mechanical
engineering and specialized in still rings.
"The gymnastics team, my
gosh, talk about Randy Jepson," Renee said. "Wow. The coach I would pick out of
every coach in the country. He is such a good coach such a good molder of men,
but really, he is more concerned about these kids as people than as gymnasts...the
priorities are in the right place and its just been so so good on all levels. I
can't say enough about that."
"The Penn State guys were
my heroes and so that's where I really wanted to go in middle school and high
school," Josh said.
Randy and Josh worked
together to help secure a national championship in 2007 and created an
opportunity for Josh to captain the 2008 squad.
That 2007 championship
was not only a pivotal moment for Jepson, the Penn State men's gymnastic team
and Josh, but also Brayden, a young and inspiring gymnast.
"It's been funny to watch
Josh when he was on the team and see his little brother, Brayden," Jepson said.
"He would be doing mushroom and you know a little tiny kid working on stuff and
I just knew he would develop and be a solid guy.
"I really felt like I was
apart of the team and I was giving them everything that I could," Brayden said.
"Being apart of that really just made me fall in the love with the sport and
fall in love with Penn State."
For Brayden, seeing his
older siblings succeed only motivated him further.
"I just want to make everyone proud," Brayden said.
"Everyone who has come before me has made my parents so proud so I just want to
keep that tradition going."
"What I wanted for
Brayden was just to have an experience like I had at Penn State," Josh said. "I
wanted him to have that same experience bonding with his teammates and really
kind of cultivating this family atmosphere. That's something that I've tried to
make sure he recognizes that is more special than any other championship you
could win. It's what I cherished most
about being a Penn State athlete."
"I'm here for the team," Brayden added. "I'm
here to do what I need to do to make this team better and if that's putting on
three routines a week, I'll do that. If it's being the biggest cheerleader to
get my team going, I'll do that. Everything is about the team here and that's
what I love about it."
While Brayden is in Happy Valley doing
everything he can for his Penn State teammates, his first team- his family,
will always be a driving force for him, and the sport of gymnastics helped to
bring them all together.