The girls state championship season had a local flair from beginning to end.
Chesterton senior Kelly Grassel repeated as state medalist on Sept. 29 and Portage's softball team closed the door on the title chase with the 4A state championship last Saturday.
It's the first time in history that the area has had a titlist to begin and end the championship season.
State titles — team or individual — were won locally in each the fall, winter and spring seasons. Adding bowling, three teams title were taken and six individual crowns made their way back to the area.
Each tournament had its own noteworthy points.
Grassel, a Michigan State recruit, won the area's first individual title as a junior, and she backed that up with a record-setting 137 total to claim another crown. The repeat crown didn't lack for drama, as Grassel rallied from a five-shot deficit on the back nine to win. She punctuated her two-shot win with a birdie on her final prep hole. She capped the day with the state's mental attitude award.
Portage's gymnastics team pulled off a seemingly miraculous upset win over heavily-favored Valparaiso to win the Indians' first crown in this sport since 1975.
The Vikings are won of the reasons for this title drought, holding the state mark for team crowns with nine, and they dispatched of Portage at the Duneland Athletic Conference meet and both the sectional and regional.
Indians' coach Karen Barcelli kept stating the team hadn't performed at their best level yet — and she appeared to be right. Bars — a bugaboo all year for Portage — was the Indians' final rotation and the squad posted a 27.5, almost a half point better than their previous high postseason mark — and picked up the win.
Barcelli's daughter, Mackenzie, won all-around and floor, while Valparaiso's Morgan Algozine won bars and vault.
it's just the second time — the first was 2004 — when local teams finished first and second and individual gymnasts took home four of the five crowns.
In bowling, Boone Grove edged Lake Central 315-304 for its first team crown, while Merrillville's Carly Larson, a Valparaiso University recruit, won the individual title by a single pin (235-234). It's the first time the area has had two local schools meet in the state championship and also win the individual crown.
Portage's softball team allowed only two runs over their final four games, recording shutouts in two of the three games. Sophomore pitcher Kiley Jones, who allowed just one home run all season, gave up just two runs from the regional forward. The Indians only had one hit in the championship, Lauren Murray's two-run double in the fourth.
Senior catcher Haley Hodges then received the mental attitude award, seemingly a fitting end to an exciting prep year for local girls teams.