Wednesday was an eventful evening for the Portage gymnastics team as the Indians celebrated their seniors, shattered two school records and capped off an undefeated regular season all in one night.
Portage defeated Chesterton 112.65-108.675 behind strong performances by senior Mackenzie Barcelli, who placed first in all-around and floor, and Danielle Solis, who won the vault.
Barcelli, Lyndsey Cunningham and Bre Caldwell were honored by head coach Karen Barcelli over the public address system prior to the meet.
“The days leading up to the meet, I was like, ‘No, I’m not going to cry; I’m not going to get emotional,’” Mackenzie Barcelli said. “Then, tonight I was like, ‘Dang, this is my last meet, I’ve got to go out with a bang.’”
Barcelli did this just that on her final event in the PHS gymnasium by posting a school record 9.8 on floor.
“It kind of hit me on floor that this is my last routine ever,” she said. “After I finished I knew that was the best routine I’ve ever done. I said, ‘That’s got to be the school record.’”
The team score of 112.65 set a new all-time PHS high; although Karen Barcelli said the meet still left room for improvement.
“I didn’t think we had our best meet, to be honest,” she said. “I was not expecting a record at all, I didn’t think we’d come close to what we did last time.”
The highlight of the regular season came on Feb. 6 when the Indians halted rival Valparaiso’s regular season unbeaten streak, which dated back to 2007. Portage rallied to come away victorious in the Vikings’ home gym to become the number one team in the state of Indiana.
Portage entered the final event down by one tenth of a point with the Indians on beam and the Vikings on floor.
“When their score flashed, all of our parents cheered because they knew it,” Cunningham said. “Karen [Barcelli] started crying and then we knew we had it. We asked her if it was for real and she said yes and then we all started hugging and crying and it was a great feeling. We didn’t go into it expecting that we would win, but we knew we could.”
Cunningham fought back tears after completing her final home meet as a PHS gymnast.
“It’s just really sad thinking that we’re not going to compete here at Portage again, but we still have a bunch of meets, so it’s okay,” she said. “We’re not done yet.”
Although the regular season Duneland Athletic Conference title belongs to the Indians, they still have a tall task ahead with as many as four additional meetings with Valparaiso on the horizon.
“We’re ready,” Karen Barcelli said. “We’ve got things that we need to work on and clean up, but the girls are confident. They know that it’s going to take a team to beat us because we’re going to go out there be tough and bring it.”