MUNCIE | Eighteen years ago, Kathy Wilburn was pregnant with her daughter Samantha when she attended the state gymnastics meet as a Chesterton assistant coach.
Saturday at Ball State's Worthen Arena, the Trojans head coach fought back tears and tried to find the words as that same child was honored with the Mildred M. Ball Mental Attitude Award.
"It's not easy being the coach's daughter in any sport," Wilburn said. "She's always handled it maturely ... with such grace. She's very deserving and we're very proud."
Wilburn will attend Purdue University on an academic scholarship to study nursing. She has earned her school's Scholar Athlete Award all four years (3.5 grade point average) and is an Academic All-State honoree.
"I'm kind of taken aback ... that they thought that much of me," Samantha said. "I wasn't expecting it at all. It's really nice to end my career that way. Gymnastics has been such a big part of my life. I'm proud of myself and for Chesterton. It's one of those things that you see older girls get and think, 'Oh, that's really cool.' I'm really honored."
Wilburn isn't only coached by her mom, her dad Greg is an assistant coach.
"Though she's our daughter, she's always been a team player," Greg said. "There were are a lot of kids deserving of the award. We're just blessed to have her on our team and to have her as our daughter."
The last Trojan to win the award was Lauren West in 2003. West is now an assistant coach.
"Sam never complained if she was on an event or off an event," Kathy said. "She worked through and around adversity, both mental and physical. We've got a team of mentally tough kids who are so closely bonded, and she's a big contributor to why the team was the way they were. She was a huge leader and it's nice to see her rewarded for that."
Make it a combo: Valpo's Steffanie Long and Morgan Algozine went 1-3 in the all-around and each placed on three events, Long winning two (floor and vault) and Algozine another (bars).
"Needless to say, they're awesome athletes and hard workers," coach Lorie Cook said. "It's wonderful to see them getting the personal accolades as well as the team accolades because they're team people. They're for the team."
Vault squared: Portage's Danielle Solis (third, 9.6) and Mackenzie Barcelli (fifth, 9.575) both medaled on vault.
"I had no idea what I was capable of," Solis said. "But (vault)'s one of my best events so I was I felt confident. I was a little nervous on my first one, so I just had to calm down. It was weird (doing just two events). I felt out of place."
Barcelli competed a pike Yurchenko for the first time.
"Wednesday was the first time I actually did it," she said. "I had a nice first vault, so I decided to try it. It's state. There's no holding back."
Beaming Senator: Participating in her first state meet, Washington Twp.'s Cassidy Feldsien took fourth on balance beam with a 9.45. Feldsien was the only gymnast from a Class A school to medal. She had the same score as three other gymnasts, including LaPorte's Abbey Light, who wound up second by virtue of the tie-breaker.
No falls: Chesterton's Elizabeth Kozak, whose 9.3 on beam put her 11th, completed the season without falling in competition.
"Now that the season's over, I can tell you," Kathy Wilburn said. "It's great to see her go out real strong. That shows her consistency."
High expectations: Valpo's team members seemingly aren't the only ones who expect success.
"People at school will ask, 'Oh, did you have a meet? You won, right?'" Algozine said.
"It's like, 'Oh, they won another one,'" Long said. "They kind of take it for granted. But we don't."