Vaulting to Great Heights in Allentown

Deb Fallows:

The Parkettes. It sounds like a ’60s girl band, but it’s not. If you’ve dipped into the world of gymnastics beyond watching the Olympics every four years, you probably already know that the Parkettes—the name applies to the team, the building, and the program—is a national training center for U.S. gymnasts in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

In many ways, the Parkettes is indeed a product of the ’60s, and the story of their origin is a heartwarming, classic American saga. Donna Strauss, who founded the club with her husband Bill, told me about its early days as we walked around the cavernous 35,000 square foot space that is its home. The floor was bustling with girls flying from one uneven bar to another, muscling through sets of pull-ups, pounding at top speed toward a leaping flip over the vault, and walking on their hands in rows, with precise upside-down posture across the floor. Doing anything they were doing looked impossibly, implausibly difficult.