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GIRLS GYMNASTICS NOTES: Pak is back at full strength for Chesterton
Girls gymnastics | Notes

GIRLS GYMNASTICS NOTES: Pak is back at full strength for Chesterton

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Mia Pak

Chesterton junior Mia Pak won state titles in the vault and beam last season. She is expected to compete as an all-around gymnast this postseason.

Mia Pak put together a performance at last season’s state meet that would be the envy of nearly every gymnast in the state.

Still, Pak couldn’t help but feel that she still had left to give. The Chesterton junior won state titles last year as a sophomore in the vault (9.700) and bars (9.600), but a back injury kept her out of beam and floor exercise. Pak competed in all-around at state as a freshman, finishing in sixth place.

“Last year was hard for me,” Pak said. “I did whatever I could to help the team and I cheered (my teammates) on.”

Pak attacked physical therapy in the offseason with the same tenacity that she uses as a gymnast. Working through a bulging disc in her lower back, Pak persevered and came back stronger this season. According to Chesterton coach Dawn Matthys, Pak has been dominant as an all-around gymnast this year. She capped off Chesterton’s undefeated regular season with a 37.85 on Wednesday night to help lead the Trojans past Portage. Now Pak will shift her focus to Saturday’s Duneland Athletic Conference Meet and then the postseason.

“Mia is powerful and dynamic,” Matthys said. “Sometimes we need to hold back that power in order to make things a little cleaner. She has a strong personal drive. She doesn’t like to lose.”

Pak thinks Saturday’s conference meet is going to be nerve-wracking as the Trojans will come into the event with a bullseye on their back. While the conference meet won’t result in anyone’s season coming to an end, it will serve as a dress rehearsal for next weekend’s sectionals at Chesterton. The Trojans are two-time defending state champions, and Pak is eager to get a chance to compete all across the board this season.

“It’s going to be hard, but we’re ready to do the work,” Pak said.

Depth carries DAC programs

Although all eyes will be on Chesterton’s defense of its state title over the next several weeks, several DAC programs are eager to get in the fight, as well. Valparaiso and Lake Central are both ranked in the top three in the state, while Crown Point is ranked fourth and Portage is ranked eighth. Merrillville sits just outside the top 10 in 12th.

“Success breeds success,” Valparaiso coach Lorie Cook said. “There are some wonderful club teams in the area that really support high school gymnastics. We’re all really competitive up here.”

Valparaiso is looking to get back to the state finals this season after coming up short last year. Cook believes the depth of her program is the key to advancing this season. Megan Wagenblast and Lexy Malamatos lead a deep team that is seven votes behind Chesterton for the top ranking in the state.

“It’s got to be a team effort for us to be successful,” Cook said. “We’ve got 20 kids on our team, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. We can get spread thin sometimes, but we’ve got a lot of really talented kids in our program.”

Lake Central coach Karen Barcelli agreed that depth has become the driving force behind the program’s success this season. The Indians finished DAC competition with a 5-2 record, falling to Chesterton and Valparaiso in competitive contests. Junior Maddie Bugg and sophomore Cloe Amanatidis have been two of Lake Central’s top gymnasts this season.

“We have all the skills in place that we need right now,” Barcelli said. “We have so much more depth and I’ve had a bunch of girls that have surprised me throughout the year. We’re looking forward to (the DAC meet) because it will be a taste of what is to come for the rest of the season.”

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Paul Oren has been a correspondent reporter for The Times since 2005. A member of the United States Basketball Writers Association, Paul has spent more than 15 years covering Valparaiso basketball.

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