By KEN PETERSON
INDIANAPOLIS -- For the second time in three years, Chesterton is the
gymnastics capital of Indiana.
Coach Maria Bachuchin’s Trogems capped off a remarkable season Saturday
afternoon in bringing back to Chesterton its third IHSAA state championship.
The team was greeted Saturday night around 10 p.m. with a police escort from
the Toll Road and went through town with the trophy in hand amidst cheers
As they entered the CHS gymnasium, Queen’s hit “We are the Champions”
greeted the winners.
Chesterton’s other championships came in 1993 and 2000.
It really has been a storybook season for this team. Competing in the
toughest conference, sectional and regional in the state, the Trogems met
and defeated all challengers and put an exclamation point on an outstanding
The championship is even more satisfying when you consider Chesterton has to
start on floor, then vault, uneven bars and beam.
“If you can win doing beam last, that shows you’ve got the mental toughness
that you need and you deserve to win,” Bachuchin said. “And we showed it.
I’m so proud of these girls because it is not an easy thing to do. Friend
and foe Valparaiso has done (this rotation) three weeks in a row, and I said
that they had to buck up and do it and so do we.”
The door to clinching the championship came early when Dwenger and
Merrillville completed vault.
“I knew where we stood with them because they were following us,” Bachuchin
said. “I kind of felt we had a good shot after bars. We hit bars and that
gave us a nice cushion.”
Heading into the final rotation, the Trogems held a little more than a
one-point lead over Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger. The beam came down to
Chesterton’s ability to execute to win.
And with all the events done, the eyes of over 1,000 people were fixed on
“The kids were prepared for that and that is how we practiced,” Bachuchin
Jenny Janosky and Jessica Gravel scored 8.85 and 8.60, respectively on their
turns. And when Leslie West nailed her beam, the trophy was pretty much
“(Beam coach Kathy Wilburn) made a call early in the week and we did some
things differently in practice,” Bachuchin said. “And I think that helped
us. I want to give a lot of credit to Kathy Wilburn. She really came
through. She’s awesome. She can read those kids like a book. She knew
exactly what to do with them and we just followed her plan.
“They were confident. We didn’t need three 9.5’s to win it. We didn’t tell
them what they needed to win. We told them to do their best.”
Following Leslie’s showing, Lauren West followed with a 9.625 for a little
icing on the cake.
“Leslie has had difficulty with her aerials,” Bachuchin said. “And today
Kathy said she’s made more than she’s missed and she’s going to make it. And
she did. They’ve been consistent all year and when we got to the state meet,
they did more of the same.”
It was fitting that the Marvin Gaye, Tammy Terell classic “Ain’t No Mountain
High Enough” was playing over the loudspeakers in the Perry Meridian gym, as
the Trogems were finishing on beam. A fitting conclusion for a team that a
year ago finished fourth at the state meet behind Bishop Dwenger.
But through a year of hard work and dedication, this group reigns supreme.
“That is why this was so nerve wracking for me because we were suppose to
win this,” Bachuchin said. “It was ours to lose and winning it really helped
us. That’s the song that that our kids lip sing all the time. And as soon as
it came on and Lauren was on beam, all the kids (knew) this was a good sign.
It’s the truth. That’s kind of like our theme song.”
It may be too early to start thinking about 2003, but barring injury or
other factors, one thing is for certain. With everyone but senior Rachel
Brown coming back, Chesterton will begin next year as the favorite to once
again win another state title.