The revolving door of high school gymnastics injuries keeps swinging in the Merrimack Valley, with key performers losing seasons at top programs Andover, Salem and Pinkerton over the last two years.
Four members of last year’s Eagle-Tribune All-Area team — Andover’s Jessie Livingston, Salem’s Kadi Tommasi and Pinkerton’s Olivia Bogaczcyk and graduated Courtney Thompson — have either suffered serious injuries in the past or have battled them in the past.
Fortunately, most have recovered and come back strong or are well on their way to a full recovery.
Arguably the top gymnast in the area this year, Pinkerton junior Kaylee Pacunas, wasn’t even on last year’s All-Area team because she missed the entire season with a stress fracture.
Forced to choose between her high school team and her club team, because she didn’t think her leg could withstand the training and pounding at both, Pacunas choose to remain with her club team, Walker’s Gymnastics, and even that didn’t work out completely. She missed considerable time wearing a cast and a boot to promote the healing.
While her leg was in a cast, Pacunas went to cheer on the Astros at the state meet. Pinkerton not only won the championship convincingly, but its performance motivated Pacunas to return to high school competition.
“My friend, Amanda Ciola, also goes to Walker’s and, when I went to the (state) meet, I realized how much I missed being around all of them,” said Pacunas, who trains 12 months a year. “When I was cheering for them, I knew I wanted to come back this year.”
Thus far, the return has been a huge success. In her first four meets, she was first in 13 of the 16 events she competed in and was the all-around champion in all four meets. She also was all-around champ in her fifth meet Monday night.
“Kaylee is strong on all four events, and doesn’t have a weak apparatus,” said Pinkerton coach Chelseie Veilleux. “She is a hard worker, and has improved tremendously since her freshman year.
“I have known Kaylee as a gymnast far before she became a freshman at Pinkerton. I have watched her mature into a strong leader and fierce competitor. We are thrilled to have her return after taking her sophomore year off.”
Pacunas, while highly competitive, has not set any specific personal goals for the season, saying just that “I want to do my best and help Pinkerton. I’m just having fun and I’m glad I came back.”
But Veilleux has no doubt about her potential.
“I see her to be one of the top front runners in the all-around at this year’s state championships as long as she remains healthy,” said Veilleux.
Sister act Three sets of sisters have bolstered the Pinkerton gymnastics team this winter. They are: Emma (freshman) and Maggie Cameron (senior) -- Emma specializes on the beam while Maggie is best at the vault and bard Leah (freshman) and Kaylee Pacunas (junior) -- Both are multi-talented and compete in the all-around, but Leah is currently out with an ankle injury Jackie (freshman) and Olivia Bogaczyk (senior) -- Jackie excels on the balance beam and does all events while Olivia was second at state and third in New England in the all-around last year, but she's recovering from an ankle injury