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Staff

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Steve Needham

Stephen is a young professional with an extensive and diverse coaching background. Son of Palaestra Gymnastics founder Kathy Needham, Stephen has 10​ years of coaching experience working with both boys and girls at all levels. His resume includes recreational and developmental gymnastics, as well as competitive Xcel, Junior Olympic and High School gymnastics.

From 2008-2013, Stephen was the Men’s Varsity Gymnastics Head Coach for Salem High School and the Assistant Coach to the Women’s Varsity and Junior Varsity Gymnastics Teams. During his time at SHS, Stephen’s success was evident, yielding multiple individual league and state champions and Team State Titles. While coaching at SHS, he secured a position at the highly respected Nancy Chippendales School of Dance as the Acrobatics Program Director for Nancy Chippendales School of Dance World Champions. Stephen trained their dancers in strength and flexibility, partner acrobatic stunts, and tumbling. In an effort to save Men’s High School gymnastics, Stephen started a men’s gymnastics team at Windham High School in 2012.

As Head Coach of the Xcel Program at Yellow Jackets Gymnastics Club, Stephen produced over 100 individual State Champions and 20 Regional Qualifiers between 2013-2016. His coaching facilitated multiple Team State Titles across all levels. Stephen’s involvement and dedication at Yellow Jackets newly established second location resulted in the club being awarded “Regional Gold Best Gym in the North Shore” in 2015 and 2016.

Stephen is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic coach with great spotting abilities and leadership skills. He is a true motivator and is very passionate about gymnastics, sports, and competition. He has a lifetime involvement in gymnastics as both an athlete and coach. Stephen is devoted to Palaestra’s philosophy and aims to “train, educate, and inspire” his athletes and students.

Abby Saunders

Abby joined the PGA staff in 2022 as a recreational and tumble coach. Her passion for coaching is evident every time she’s on the floor! In addition to PGA, she holds the head coach position for the Epping Royals cheer team. In 2022, Abby contributed to the choreography for the 12-15 year group of Royals, resulting in 1st place for the 2022-2023 season.

Outside of coaching, Abby enjoys working out, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.

Katelyn Priestley

Katelyn joined the PGA staff in 2022. She leads our preschool program and coaches the Windham Wolverines D8 cheer team. Katelyn’s love for children, patience, and creativity make her classes extraordinary! Everyone leaves with a smile!

When Katelyn is not coaching or being an Uber driver for her four children, she enjoys camping and being outdoors.

Tristen Witkowski

Tristen has been involved with gymnastics for over 20 years. She has enjoyed coaching for ten years, with experience at the toddler, recreational, and competitive levels. Her favorite event is vault. Tristen has competed in many state and regional competitions, earning many individual events and all-around titles. She was Region 6 All-Around Champion in 2014 and 2015. Vault champion in 2015 & 2016, beam champion of 2015, and floor champion of 2014. At the state level, she earned first all-around in 2014, first on bars in 2014 and 2016, and first on vault in 2015 and 2017.

Elise Morey

Elise started gymnastics at age five and has competed in JO, Excel, and high school gymnastics. Elise joined the PGA staff in 2021. She is an assistant coach for recreational, tumble, and team. She loves seeing the look in her student’s eyes and their pride when they conquer a new skill. Aside from the technical side of coaching, Elise enjoys seeing how gymnastics can bring together kids from different backgrounds and unique personalities! She knows that gymnasts with a positive attitude and willingness to keep trying will find success, no matter what their skill level is.

If she could give gymnasts one piece of advice, it would be to “Keep it fun.” Everyone can get frustrated when learning new skills, but your hard work will pay off, so have fun!

Mari Ciresi

Mari is a USA Gymnastics certified coach. She holds a master’s degree in physical education.

She has many years of experience coaching gymnastics and cheer. She was a level 8 gymnast and competed in the US and overseas. Her goal is to have a positive impact on her athletes.

She likes to hike, craft, and spend time with her family in her free time.

Nick Masson

Nick has been dancing and acting for over two decades, with a decade of teaching and choreography experience. He’s most notably known for his role as Mush in the movie Newsies, where he also toured with the same company for a year and a half. Nick has danced for NBC, Dabang National Tour, and Telemundo, to name a few. Most recently, Nick performed in the hit Broadway show The Prom Musical, where he made his Broadway debut. In addition to his role as a PGA coach, Nick is currently a Refresh Dance Convention faculty member.