2017-04-21 / Sports

Gymnast bound for nationals

Simi Valley girl will compete in Indianapolis in May
Jonathan Andrade
@J_ Andrade_ on Twitter

Katie Chamberlain 
BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers Katie Chamberlain BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers A year ago, Katie Chamberlain was still agonizing over just how close she had come to reaching her goal.

The Simi Valley resident, who had reached the Women’s U.S. Junior Olympic Level 10 National Championships in 2015, faltered in the Region 1 gymnastics tournament in 2016. She placed ninth overall, narrowly missing a return to nationals by two spots.

“I was definitely disappointed in myself even though I knew I did well,” the 17-year-old said. “I was disappointed because I knew I could do better. The fact I didn’t make it motivated me to do better.”

The Granada Hills High junior, who verbally committed to the University of Pittsburgh, made the necessary adjustments—she blossomed at this year’s state championships on April 6 at the Central California Gymnastics Institute in Visalia.

Chamberlain took fourth place overall with her best performance of the season: She placed fourth in the balance beam, sixth in the vault, eighth in the uneven bars and 14th in the floor exercise.

DYNAMO—Katie Chamberlain, a Simi Valley resident, has been offered a gymnastics scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. 
Courtesy of Brian Johnson DYNAMO—Katie Chamberlain, a Simi Valley resident, has been offered a gymnastics scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. Courtesy of Brian Johnson Sarah Korngold, Chamberlain’s coach at Paramount Elite in Van Nuys the past five years, said she wasn’t surprised her star athlete was able to return to the national competition, which will take place on May 6 and 7 in Indianapolis.

“Katie’s strength has always been her attitude,” Korngold said. “She’s always had a level-headed personality where she can put her emotions aside to listen to what we’re saying. She’s maintained that as she’s gotten older, and her strength and skill development has increased since.”

Korngold said she was impressed that Chamberlain was able to twist and flip her way to the top of one of the toughest regions, which consists of California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

“There’s more girls trying to vie for those positions than any other region,” Korngold said. “To be able to make it consistently from Region 1 means you’re a top-tier athlete.”

Competing at the national level was always the goal for Chamberlain, who was introduced to the sport through a youth program at Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District at age 2.

Darci Panick, Chamberlain’s mother, said her daughter was always full of energy as a child.

“It was merely just to keep her going,” Panick said of gymnastics. “She was very active as an infant. She was always running around and climbing.”

Panick said even at that young age, Chamberlain displayed unusual focus.

“All the other girls in the rec program were just having fun,” Panick said. “(Chamberlain) was very serious.”

Chamberlain, who maintains a 4.0 grade-point average, has continued to thrive in the sport.

She spent stints training at Gymnastics World and Matrix Gymnastics in Chatsworth before landing at Paramount Elite.

Chamberlain said she’s delighted to return to the national stage.

“I was probably more excited this time,” Chamberlain said of qualifying. “The fact I can qualify twice is pretty exciting. It’s such a big competition. It’s the best of the best. To be part of that group is pretty exciting.”

Her experience from her first trip to nationals, held in Des Moines, Iowa, has helped calm any nerves heading into this year’s event.

“The first time I went into nationals I was really nervous because it was such a foreign experience,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect.

This time, I’m more familiar with the atmosphere.”

Chamberlain credited her parents, Panick and Todd Chamberlain, and her coach, friends and teammates for keeping her motivated throughout her career.

“Other than my self-motivation, they’re basically why I’m doing this,” Chamberlain said. “They keep encouraging me. They’ve made me who I am today. They’re superheroes.”

Panick said she’ll be the loudest fan at the Indiana Convention Center.

“I hope she tries her hardest, does the best she can and is happy with whatever she does,” the mother said. “She should be very proud she’s made it this far.”

Email Jonathan Andrade at jandrade@theacorn.com.

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