Trio of gymnasts leave their mark at Elgin club
Until Wednesday, the Midwest Elite Gymnastics Academy in Elgin had never had a Division I girls gymnast.
Now the club has three.
Makenzie Sedlacek (Arkansas), Gabrielle Stephen (Michigan State) and Maddie Steskal (George Washington) all signed this week to compete in gymnastics at Division I universities.
"Pretty monumental for the girls program," said their coach Roger Pasek, a college gymnast himself at Illinois. "Lots of ups and downs. They have each had struggles, pushed through them."
Pasek knows Stephen and Steskal the best, coaching both the past 10 years. Sedlacek is in her first year at Midwest Elite after switching from a different club.
All three are Level 10 gymnasts.
"To see them since they were 6 or 7 years old put all this work into where they are now is incredible," Pasek said of Stephen and Steskal. "Super lucky to be able to be with them the whole time.
"And Makenzie, she's super talented, so coachable, probably one of the easiest kids I've had to coach. Makes corrections, you can tell she wants to do the things she's required to do in the gym. She doesn't fall in the trap that others do that they think they don't have to put much effort into it. She's got a good combination of perseverance and talent."
Steskal, the national vault champion when she was Level 9, overcame a knee injury that sidelined her for a year.
She's been the team captain the past two years.
"She is one of the hardest workers I've ever worked with," Pasek said. "Everything she has been able to do she did through hard work."
Stephen, a two-time national qualifier, keeps the team loose.
"Gabby is hilarious, really keeps practice lively, keeps everybody laughing the whole practice. That's going to be a huge void when she leaves," Pasek said.
"She's incredibly powerful. Her tumbling is huge, her vault is huge. That's the No. 1 thing people notice about her. It's fun to watch."
Pasek said he could tell in middle school that Stephen and Steskal had a chance to become elite gymnasts.
That's a stage when many gymnasts decide not to stay with the sport, either switching to another that their friends are in or finding interests outside of gymnastics.
These two doubled down.
"They were here five days a week, four hours a day," Pasek said. "Once kids get in high school, those are the kids that have decided this is what I want to do. There's no forcing them to do stuff. They come in, they want to do it. It makes coaching them super easy. And it makes the kids underneath them see I want to be like these kids. They are phenomenal role models."
They also are excelling in the classroom, Stephen at Bartlett, Steskal at Elgin and Sedlacek at Wheaton Academy.
"These kids are all geniuses," Pasek said. "They all make me feel dumb. They all are in honors programs, they all are in the top of their class."
Pasek said he's excited to see what each can do in college. He's already making plans to take time off work to see them compete.
And he's dealing with mixed emotions after seeing the three sign their college scholarships in a ceremony Wednesday.
"It's bittersweet because it means we will lose three incredible kids next year," Pasek said. "It will definitely have an impact on the gym.
We are more than proud of what they have done."