Kathy Wilburn was able to walk out of the Valparaiso gym with her head held
high on Tuesday night, despite watching her fifth-ranked Chesterton girls
gymnastics team suffer its first loss of the season.
The Trojans fell 111.975-107.375 to the top-ranked Vikings in a battle
between two of the best teams in Northwest Indiana.
“There were a lot of positives tonight,” Wilburn said. “I could go through
every kid on the team and show where they improved in one way or the other.”
Competing without senior Kelly Freeman (knee), the Trojans stretched their
depth, which forced some of the gymnasts to take some risks.
Freshman Emily Kozak added a new vault to her arsenal and registered a score
of 8.75, her personal-best in the event.
“I wanted to do my best and just try to stay focused,” Kozak said. “I felt
really good. I put in a lot of work.”
Wilburn is still awaiting definitive word on whether or not Freeman will be
able to return this season, but the prognosis has been getting brighter with
each passing day.
“We’re very hopeful that she’ll be back by the end of the year,” Wilburn
said. “It’s going to be a process. As much as I didn’t want this to happen,
it has made other kids step up and realize their talent and raise their
confidence level. This team is extremely close knit.”
Brianne Hendrix took second in the All-Around competition, finishing less
than three points behind Valparaiso sophomore Haley Whipps. Whipps took
first place in all four events, while Hendrix captured second place in the
Bars (9.475), third in the Vault (9.3), fourth in the Floor Exercise (9.275)
and 11th in the Beam (7.9).
Emily Kozak finished fifth in the All-Around (34.4), just behind her older
sister Elizabeth (34.75). Alex O’Brien finished sixth overall (33.275) while
Ashley Ballestero captured seventh place. Samantha Wilburn took second place
in the Beam (9.0).
“I want to be able to take this and move forward,” Kozak said. “I want to
work hard and make everything better.”
The Trojans return to competition next Tuesday when they host Lake Central
before traveling to Merrillville on Thursday. Chesterton will compete in the
Duneland Athletic Conference championships at Portage on Feb. 27 before
hosting the IHSAA sectionals on March 6. Wilburn is confident that Tuesday
night’s event helped prepare her team for the bigger meets.
“Valparaiso is always a respected team,” Wilburn said. “These are the events
that you train for. To go against this level of competition will only help
us down the road.”
111.975, Chesterton 107.375
Vault -- 1. Haley Whipps (V), 9.6; 2. Allyson Kraft (V), 9.35; 3. Brianne
Hendrix (C), 9.3.
Bars -- 1. Haley Whipps (V0, 9.775; 2. Brianne Hendrix (C), 9.475; 3. Morgan
Algozine (V), 9.45.
Beam -- 1. Haley Whipps (V), 9.525; 2. Samantha Wilburn (C), 9.0; 3. Kassidy
Swenson (V), 8.975.
Floor -- 1. Haley Whipps (V), 9.65; 2. Kassidy Swenson (V), 9.475; 3.
Elizabeth Kozak (C), 9.375.
All-Around -- 1. Haley Whipps (V), 38.55; 2. Brianne Hendrix (C), 35.95; 3.
Kassidy Swenson (V), 35.75.