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Stickin' it: Valpo uses strong balance beam finish to capture Chesterton Sectional title

CHESTERTON -- It was a four-team race for three regional berths at Saturday's Chesterton Sectional and the rotations didn't particularly favor Valparaiso.

"This was a nail-biter," Vikings coach Lorie Cook said. "Lake Central was neck and neck with us and Chesterton wasn't far behind them. They were (both) on floor and we were on beam. You don't really want that matchup."

Not to worry. Valpo posted a meet-high 28.775, punctuated by sophomore Gabi Grisafi's 9.8, to lock up the team title with a season- and state-best 113.675.

"It's probably not everybody's favorite way to close the meet," Cook said. "It was our highest event total, which is unusual for most people, but beam's kind of been our thing. We've done really well on beam. It's great to see the kids step up and handle the pressure. I think the theme is you have to be on, you have to hit well. Gabi's our anchor on every event. Needless to say, it carries a burden. She hit the beam routine she does most of the time in practice. It's not a surprise. We see it all the time. We're expecting to see that kind of routine the next two weeks. Her other events, she's been really consistent on all the way through."

Grisafi's beam secured her the all-around title with a 38.85.

"Hitting (beam) felt amazing," Grisafi said. "I was just so worried. I wanted to make sure I could hit the routine for my team because it was tight. I've been working really hard lately on trying to hit everything. I was falling recently. I just had to stay mentally focused. The team being behind me, I give it all to them. They helped me so much, just to calm down my nerves. They set it right up for me."

Sabrina Falk was sixth all-around and Molly Dreher 10th for Valpo. Falk placed fourth on beam sixth on floor.

"Coach Cook always tells us we have to be mentally tough and that's what we were," Grisafi said. "It's really tough. I have a leg up because I did it last year. I try to repeat that to all of the people who are new to this. If we aren't mentally tough, it's really hard to do good."

Valpo's 28.65 on vault was its best series of the season on event.

"Molly had a harder vault and the other two counters hit," Cook said.

Lake Central (113.2) had a 0.1 lead headed into its last event, but couldn't match Valpo's finish, scoring 28.2 on floor.

"It's normally our best event," Indians coach Karen Barcelli said. "We have several capable girls. We put in the best combination we thought would work. You never know what's going to happen out there. We came here to win as well as everybody else does. It didn't pan out the way we wanted to, but hopefully we have a couple more weeks to clean that up."

Buoyed by a fall-less beam series, L.C.'s total was also a season-best.

"Let's hope that carries on," Barcelli said. "They looked fabulous. They fixed the tnigs they needded to fix. I think everybody had a better meet today. I thought the scores were very much in line. There were very few errors. That's why the scores went up so much. I was pleased with our performance. They know it's just tweaking right now. They come in, put in the work and make it better next week."

Cloe Amanatidis and Hayleigh Delgago went four-five in the all-around with 37.575 and 37.525, respectively. Amanatidis was second on floor and beam and third on bars. Delgado shared fourth on floor and claimed third on vault, while Lilliana Ventura-Sullivan contributed third on beam.

Chesterton, which had won the last four sectionals, had to sweat out advancing despite a season-high 112.375.

"This was a very hard meet," Trojans coach Christy Dzierba said. "Lake Central and Valpo looked awesome. It's a position we haven't been in in five years.

The Trojans closed with a 28.35 on floor to overcome a 0.6 deficit to Portage, which ended the meet on bars.

"It is not comfortable at all," Dzierba said. "We knew throughout the whole meet, once we got to a certain point, we were just fighting for third. The girls hit (floor) and we just waited for (Portage) to finish out on bars. We had it all figured out, but we let the girls sit there and sweat it out. It's good for them. We need to get a little bit better, work a little harder, add a little more on our stuff. There's some stuff we need to fix and just hope they hit. Next week's another day. As long as we stay in the top three next week, it all comes down to state."

In addition to Pak, Caitlyn Cook was third all-around (37.95) was fourth on bars (9.45) and sixth on beam (9.5) for Chesterton.

Individual qualifiers were Wheeler's Sarah Mella (bars), and Portage's Payton Peele (beam and floor), Wrigley Barcelli (vault and floor) and Shelby Conrad (floor). The Indians scored a meet-best 28.5 on floor.

Valparaiso won the Chesterton Sectional on Saturday, ending Chesterton's four-year streak, scoring 113.675. Lake Central and Chesterton also advanced. (Photo: @AthleticsValpo)

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