MERRILLVILLE | For more than 10 years, Amy Aponte, Lauren Lamb and Hannah Lane have been coming to the same gymnastics room at Merrillville High School.
Their personalities and skill sets are much different, according to coach Diane Roberts.
Aponte is all business, keeping the rest of the team in line to achieve their goals of that particular practice day. The younger gymnasts are on board with that, and their work ethic improves.
Lamb is more light-hearted, cracking jokes in practice and making it more fun.
Lane is trying to increase her skill set and become an all-around gymnast. That helps Lane identify and interact with the younger gymnasts who strive to be all-arounders, as well.
"I tell them, 'Don't doubt yourself,'" Lane said. "If you're doubting yourself, you're never going to get through it."
Their differences work for the three senior captains, and Roberts can see that evidence every day in practice.
"Together, it just works; it jells," Roberts said. "We will miss them when they graduate. It's kind of the feeling I had when I sent my own children off to college. You mourn their loss and you figure out how to go on without them. It's going to be a sad senior night."
The Pirates introduced a new slogan this season: "Avenge The Past." The past includes never making it to Regionals as a team or individually, which is an obvious goal this season.
One of the top teams in Indiana year-in and year-out, Merrillville would likely qualify for Regionals every season in a different geographical area of Indiana. Contending with Duneland Athletic Conference powerhouses every season makes advancement difficult, but the Pirates were in the mix last year.
"I remember last year at sectionals, when we were really close to Chesterton after two events," said Aponte, the Class of 2013 valedictorian. "After that, we just didn't come out like we wanted to. Diane pulled us to the side and she said, 'Don't forget the feeling next season that you had on March 3.'
"I've never wanted something so bad in my high school years."
For Lamb, leaving the gymnastics room at Merrillville will be difficult.
"Every day, I've come into this gym and I do my normal routine," she said. "I see the same people every day and it's going to be weird to change that lifestyle."