The stakes were high Saturday afternoon as hundreds of high school gymnasts across Northwest Indiana competed individually and as a team at the Girls Gymnastics Sectionals to earn a spot in the IHSAA Regional Competition. Although the high-stakes event brought extreme stress for most, some spectators sat back and enjoyed watching the hard work of each gymnast shine during their performances.
“I enjoy coming out to support the girls. I love the sport of gymnastics because it truly requires dedication year-round, even just a couple days off can throw your body off,” Brynn Denton, a spectator, said. “I think people would really be surprised to find out what these girls give up and how hard they train.”
Teams from Chesterton, Crown Point, Hobart, Lake Central, LaPorte, Lowell, Merrillville, Michigan City, Portage, South Central (Union Mills), Valparaiso, and Washington Township competed Saturday morning. All eyes were on each gymnast as they performed, but the presence of their teammates alleviated some of the stress that comes with striving to be the best they can be in the world of a sport who expects you to be perfect.
“Everyone has been together since they were itty bitty. They’ve grown up together in the gym and even see each other more than they see their own siblings and parents,” Diane Roberts, Coach of the Merrillville Gymnastics Team, said. “They all love, respect, and support each other especially at big meets like this.”
Sophia Hunzelman, a Chesterton High School junior, said the enormous amount of support from her teammates always gets her to rally through stressful meets and is always more effective than any mental routine she walks herself through before performing.
“We have a really big team so it feels like when one person is competing, everyone is competing. It just doesn’t feel like an individual sport. We’re all so closely bonded, the support given and received is amazing,” Hunzelman said.
One contestant, however, represented her high school by herself. Makenna King of South Central High School didn’t let this hold her back.
“Even though she doesn’t have teammates, our family and Makenna see familiar faces every time we compete. The girls cheer for her and even the parents in the stands who know her will rally for her. It’s really such a supportive group,” Corey King, Makenna’s mother, said. “I’m so proud of her for taking what she has and working with it no matter what.”
Each gymnast hoped to progress to the Regional Championships but kept a calm and open mind about the possibilities of things going differently than they planned.
“It’s important to prepare. If we don’t advance, we will come back stronger next year,” Madeline Bugg, a Lake Central High School sophomore, said. This wasn’t a problem for Lake Central, however, as they placed second behind Chesterton High School, while Portage High School placed in third. All three teams will be advancing to Regionals next Saturday, March 2nd.
In the individual all-around category, six gymnasts advanced to the Regional Competition. Aside from this, three gymnasts were recognized for their outstanding performance in academics. Hailee Ellenwood and Jamie Stento of Chesterton High School and Maddison Mullens of Lake Central High School stood before their peers and family members as they were honored for a 3.5 or higher GPA and their high scores on the ACT and SAT exams.
There is no question that gymnastics is a demanding and high-intensity sport, but through all of this, each team member relies on each other to keep their cool and enjoy the moment they are in.
“We do better when we have fun. We try not to think so much about the competition and remember to enjoy ourselves,” Cloe Amanatidis, a Lake Central High School sophomore, said.
The doors to the Regional Competition open at noon next Saturday and the competition begins at 1:00 p.m. sharp. Congratulations to all of the gymnasts on their incredible performances!