A 4-inch wide surface will definitely play a huge role in Friday's Valparaiso Gymnastics Regional.
"Beam tends to be really important," Valparaiso coach Lorie Cook said. "It's the easiest to make mistakes (on).
"If you hit your beam routines, that generally sets you up to have a good meet."
From an athletic standpoint, I believe it's the hardest event we have in high school sports. I still am amazed how these athletes can stay on such a tiny surface.
"Part of it is a mental focus, then there's the desire to stay on," Cook said.
The Vikings have shown the ability to do whatever it takes to remain on the beam. At last week's sectional, Valpo placed three in the top six and they finished with an impressive 28.175. Junior Morgan Algozine was spectacular with a meet-high 9.625, barely flinching on her aerial moves. On Friday, it will be their third event.
I believe the team's ability in this event is a reason they're the four-time defending state champions.
"Experience is also a factor," Cook said. "We have been through pretty tough meets over the years."
Chesterton has shown -- especially this season -- to have an affinity for beam. It seems to be the Trojans' best event. At the Chesterton invitational on Jan. 29, they scored a meet record 28.8 on beam -- that's an eye-popping 9.6 average for the three scores.
"I think a lot of coaches get nervous when it comes to this part of the season," first-year coach Lauren West said. "We've instilled confidence in this event."
West likes that it's Chesterton's last event at the regional.
"I've been very lucky, because we don't worry about beam," West said. "It's nice for us, because we won't dread going into our last event."
Portage expects to take one of the two state finals spots Friday, and this event could be the difference in the Indians making their first team trip since their lone state championship in 1975.
Portage has noticeably struggled on beam, counting three falls at the Duneland Athletic Conference meet. A week later at sectional, the Indians only counted one fall.
That gives coach Karen Barcelli a much-better feeling about the regional -- even though beam is her team's first event.
"We haven't hit on beam yet this year, but I think we have more confidence now," Barcelli said. "We're not really thinking about the mistakes. We believe we can pull it off."
Barcelli also doesn't feel the historical significance of Friday's regional will not provide added pressure to her team.
"It's a motivating factor," she said. "A few years ago, we started breaking streaks. We've just continued to do that."
And I'll continue to be impressed with these competitors can stay on that small surface.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at email@example.com.