Gymnastics requires balance. Whether on the floor, the beams, the bar, or the vault, balance is the key to success in this sport. It also extends off the mats as students learn life lessons in balance: balancing academics with athletics, balancing social schedules with meets, and balancing personal goals with the sisterhood of their team.
On Saturday afternoon, high school students who advanced from the Chesterton and Lafayette Jefferson sectionals demonstrated their outstanding balance at the IHSAA Regional Competition at Valparaiso High School. Competing schools included Chesterton, Crown Point, Harrison, Lafayette Central Catholic, Lafayette Jefferson, Lake Central, Lapel, Logansport, McCutcheon, Northwestern, South Central, Tri-County, Valparaiso, and Washington Township.
The Valparaiso High School gymnasts came out support their teammate, Whitney McKeon, a senior at Valpo, who achieved a personal score that allowed her to advance to Saturday’s regional competition. While the team did not advance as a team during last week’s sectional meet, the Valparaiso Vikings were eager to celebrate McKeon’s success in a true display of sisterhood.
Lizzy Wilson, a senior at Valparaiso High School, was injured at sectionals and was unable to compete at the regional level. Wilson’s love for gymnastics started when she was just 3 years old. Though disheartened that she could not compete, Wilson cheered in triumph at McKeon’s performances.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s good to have someone from Valpo competing so we can still live out the moment and support her,” Wilson said.
Wilson and her teammates cheered for McKeon as she competed in all four events in hopes of becoming the Regional All-Around Champion again. As the team hugged McKeon after each event, it was easy for fans to see their strong bond.
“We have such a small team this year, so it feels like a little family,” Wilson said. “Every time we go to practice, everyone is always there for each other. We support each other and calm each other. We are all little sisters and big sisters.”
Emily Laux, a senior at Harrison High School, celebrated her 18th birthday at the regional competition. Laux competed on the uneven parallel bars, the balance beam, and the floor exercise. Laux develops her physical balance skills while relying on her teammates to balance gymnastics with high-school life.
“We train with the team three times a week, but I practice every day,” Laux said. “It’s hard, but you have your teammates, and they help you along the way. We study together and help each other.”
Mia Pak, a sophomore at Chesterton High School and the 2018 Valparaiso Regional Vault and Bars Champion, competed in the bars, beam, and vault.
“We practice every day except Sunday,” Pak said. “It’s really hard but being there with the team is amazing. It’s a hard balance, but after a while, you get into a routine.”
The top three teams compiling the highest number of points will advance to the state finals at Noblesville High School on Saturday, March 9. Fans cheered from the stand as Portage High School accepted their third-place award, Lake Central High School accepted their second-place award, and Chesterton High School accepted the first-place championship award.
Awards were also presented to first through sixth place winners in each event and the all-around winners. The top six place winners in each event will advance to the state finals next week. Individual gymnasts also advance if they score above the sixth-place score at the previous state meet. Whitney McKeon smiled as she was presented a ribbon for being the second-place all-around competitor, standing next to the 2019 Valparaiso Regional All-Around Champion, Jordan Bush from Chesterton High School.
As they gymnasts turn their sights towards competing at state, they know they have the support of their team in helping them to achieve balance, both on and off the mats.
Here are the results from the 2019 IHSAA Regional Competition:
1st place: Chesterton with 114.45
2nd place: Lake Central with 110.875
3rd place: Portage 3rd with 107.55
4th place: McCutcheon with 106.45
5th place: Harrison with 104.775
6th place: Logansport with 104.1.
Whitney McKeon (Valparaiso)
2nd Catie Smith (Northwestern) 6th
Haiven Gipson (Harrison) 1st
Julie-Ann Stephany (Lafayette Jefferson) 3rd
Catie Smith (Northwestern) 5th
Whitney McKeon (Valparaiso) Tied 6th
Whitney McKeon (Valparaiso) tied 3rd
Crysta Dilley (McCutcheon) 6th
Whitney McKeon (Valparaiso) 2nd
Haiven Gipson (Harrison) 5th
Catie Smith (Northwestern) Tied 6th
Paige Hein (Crown Point) Tied 6th
Emma Taylor (McCutcheon) 2nd
Whitney McKeon (Valparaiso) 5th