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Our glory days: Kristen and Linda Gisondi, Egg Harbor Township 2000

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher Richard Gisondi offered his daughter, Linda, her own room when she was in high school. She politely declined. So did Kristen Gisondi. The twins from the Scullville section of Egg Harbor Township decided instead to have the wall between two small bedrooms taken out to make one large room they could share. It’s tough to separate twins. It’s even tougher to decide which one had a better athletic career in the variety of Eagles uniforms they wore in the late 1990s and into 2000. Linda and Kristen Gisondi, born 14 minutes apart (Linda is the “older” twin) on Feb. 25, 1982, combined to earn 22 varsity letters in five different sports before graduating from EHT in 2000. Despite their athletic prowess, they aren’t even the most famous girls in their family. Older sister ToniAnn was nominated for “Best young supporting actress in a motion picture” in the 1981-82 Young Artists Awards for her portrayal of “Molly” in the 1982 film “Annie.” But make no mistake, Linda and Kristen certainly made a name for themselves while wearing the silver and black at Egg Harbor Township High School. Kristen was the top runner on the cross country and track teams, even winning the county championship her senior year in the 3,200 meters in track, and Linda was a highly sought-after softball player who received dozens of letters from colleges. Linda, 31, still lives in Egg Harbor Township and is a special education teacher at Davenport Elementary. Kristen, who also was a teacher for several years, is married and lives in Hamburg, N.J., and gave birth to her first child, a boy, this month. Both speak fondly of their time at EHT, but despite being twins there were differences between the two. Kristen was the smaller twin, a scrappy point guard in basketball and an accomplished distance runner in cross country and track. Linda was an outstanding pitcher and power hitter in softball, a tough power forward in basketball, and a contributing player in soccer during the fall of her first two years before switching to cross country as a junior. Kristen Gisondi, Egg Harbor Township class of 2000. Kristen Gisondi, Egg Harbor Township class of 2000. running in 5Ks and things of that nature, but Linda is still going strong. She plays in a women’s rink hockey league and is a perennial all-star in the Jersey Shore Powder Puff Football League, a very competitive women’s flag football league based in Somers Point. She also plays dodgeball with boyfriend Zach Calhoun, a former EHT football player, during the winter in the South Jersey Sports League, an adult recreational sports organization based in Ocean City. Kristen said that despite their athletic talents there never really was any direct competition between the twins. “Never between us because she stood out in her sports and I stood out in mine and we were both very different,” Kristen said. The right guidance Many times outstanding high school athletes have fathers who continually push them to be the best, but the twins said Richard Gisondi was never like that. “My dad was always very involved with our sports. He was never really hard on us. I think people saw him as being hard on us because he was involved, but he was more motivating and helpful,” Linda said. Richard and his wife, also named Linda, may have inadvertently spurred their twin daughters’ competitive nature. Seeing him involved with the acting careers of older sisters ToniAnn and Lisa, both Holy Spirit graduates, made the twins want to follow in their footsteps. “We saw our older sisters with him and we wanted to (get that attention),” Kristen said. “They were more involved in plays and we were like ‘daddy, daddy.’ We were his little tomboys and he’d be like, ‘OK, what do you want to do?'” “He would drive us hours to softball and basketball clinics. He definitely was our supporter and that’s what made us play,” Linda said. “I don’t think for him it was for us to be the best in the world. He knew we were good. I think it was more to keep us healthy and out of trouble. We made a lot of friends and we stayed out of trouble. Overall it was a good experience. We never tried to make it our life, but I Linda Gisondi, Egg Harbor Township class of 2000. Linda Gisondi, Egg Harbor Township class of 2000. guess it kind of was.” The value of teamwork Like many former high school athletes, the Gisondi twins think back about their high school careers and how quickly those times came and went. But now, as 31-year-olds, they said they are able to see just how much all those sports, coaches and teammates shaped the lives they lead today. “I think it was great. Different coaches I experienced helped me realize different personalities and working with different people,” Kristen said. “It transferred over into my teaching career because I realized that everyone teaches differently and coaches differently, and I might not have understood that in high school. How I perceived things was different, like why someone might have coached a certain way, and now I realize that people are different and have different ways of teaching things.” “You definitely learn to work with people as a team. I teach special education now and my ability to play sports and work as a team and be patient, I use that with (my students),” Linda said. “It helps me in my career now. A kid I had last year was asked what his highlight of the year was and he said playing football with Ms. Gisondi. So I’m able to use that in my classroom.” “You definitely learn to adjust and deal with different personalities and you are prepared for that when you come across it when you get older,” Kristen said. “It helps you grow.” When asked what the highlight of their athletic careers at EHT was, Linda and Kristen described – naturally, in unison – a key basketball game during their senior year. The twins combined for 25 second-half points to lead the Eagles to a late-season victory. “That game was really awesome. Even in the paper (the headline read) ‘Double trouble’ and there was a picture of us,” Kristen said. “It was just a nice article. We were down and we needed to win and we combined for 25 points in a short amount of time.” Said Linda, “We could pull together and win games, and it wasn’t the first time we ever did that. When we had the opportunity to work together we were a really good team because she had her strengths and I had mine.” Despite all their success and awards in high school, and their continued success into their adult lives, Linda and Kristen are pretty much on the back burner these days as far as Richard Gisondi is concerned. “He is focused on his grandkids now. He loves us, but that’s his focus,” Linda said with a laugh. However, there surely are still a few dusty trophies on the mantle with the names Linda Gisondi and Kristen Gisondi etched into them. Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays.

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