CHESTERTON — After another school record and a score that's pushing the rarefied air of 115, the question for Chesterton remains, how high can it go?
"I think we can hit higher than 115," freshman Mia Pak said after Saturday's Chesterton Sectional. "We had the best score in the state. We counted a fall and we still beat it by a lot."
Chesterton surpassed its own high-water mark of 114.6 with a 114.975 to capture the title, followed by Valparaiso (113.7) and Portage (110.225), which edged Crown Point (110.1) for the third and final qualifying spot into the Valparaiso Regional.
"As the season's gone on, 115's been our goal," Trojans coach Dawn Matthys said. "(Merrillville coach) Diane Roberts kind of challenged us. She said, 'You haven't caught our record (115.1) yet.' There's room to grow. Gymnasts are always striving for the perfect 10 and we haven't reached it yet. These kids work really hard. It's a very talented group and they also have fun."
The trio of Jordan Bush (38.65), Sophie Hunzelman (38.275) and Pak (38.050) swept the top three spots of the all-around, each also winning an event — Bush, floor (9.75), Hunzelman, beam (9.625) and Pak, vault (9.825).
"They take turns at the top," Matthys said. "Sophie and Mia step into those roles now and again, but Jordan is the leader. She motivates the team. She encourages the team. You watch us compete on floor. She's running around the mat. It's like she's warming herself up."
Bush's all-around score was a personal best.
"I've had higher scores on bars, but I felt like it was my best routine," Bush said. "I was just happy to go out and perform. Having your teammates there to back you up, to hear them cheering, knowing the coaches and parents are behind you, it feels great."
Hunzelman edged Bush (9.575) on beam with Bush also second on vault and third on bars. Hunzelman was top four in every event.
"I've struggled on beam, so it was good to be back," Hunzelman said. "I usually have trouble on my series and I did it really well."
Pak capped the triumvirate, shaking off a beam fall to place second on bars amd fourth on floor to go with her vault first, a layout Yurchecnko that was a personal best and just missed the school record (9.85).
"I was a little upset (with the beam fall), but I knew we had floor and vault next," Pak said. "Those are my best events, so I knew I'd come back as strong as I ever would. I've been working hard on my vault, striving to break the record."
Valpo's score was a season best despite no personal bests.
"There are things we can still clean up, which is good to see," Vikings coach Lorie Cook said. "Hats off to Chesterton. They had an awesome meet. We've got our work cut out for us, but we're going to keep working and give it another go (at regionals)."
Jenna Algozine won bars with a 9.625. Lizzy Wilson was floor runner-up and third on vault, Rachel Moneta third on vault and Whitney McKeon fourth all around among Viking medalists.
"My grips have been messed up this week. They kept folding under. Not having them go out on me was a real plus," Algozine said. "I've been practicing consistently, so it was good to go out and do what I've been doing in practice, except on beam. We have so much potential, a lot of things to fix in practice, so hopefully we can get it (at regionals)."
Portage edged C.P. after losing to the Bulldogs in the dual meet and placing behind them at conference. Michaella Drake was fifth all-around.
"Our top three hit on every event, which was really the key to it," Indians coach Lisa Whipps said. "We've got Michaella, but the rest of our team is kids filling in different places on every event. Callie (Joseph) was injured at conference, so having her back helped immensely."
It was a bittersweet result for the Bulldogs, not qualifying as a team despite a season-best score. Madison Rolle was sixth on beam, while Kaleigh Stack (floor), Paige Hein (floor) and Kaitlyn Smith (beam) met qualifying standards.
"To score 110 and not be going to regionals is tough," coach Ami Pysh said. "It's a painful one. The kids were really mentally tough. They really rose above. It's a young team, they're all going to be back and more, so the future's really bright."
Other individual qualifiers included Michigan City's Caroline Weber (fourth, beam) and Merrillville's Abby Smith (fifth, bars).