MUNCIE | Portage senior Mackenzie Barcelli simply couldn't stop smiling at the incredible way she ended her prep gymnastics career, especially given the way her past three state meets have gone.
“This is going to sound really superstitious, and I've been saying it the whole meet,” she said. “Each year I've fallen in a different event. My freshman year I fell on vault, my sophomore year I fell on floor, my junior year I fell on beam.”
She couldn't afford a fall Saturday on bars. The state meet came down to Barcelli's bar routine. Hit it well, and the Indians were state champions. Make a significant mistake, and Valparaiso would capture the title.
Barcelli came through with a 9.65 on bars to give Portage its first state title since 1975, as the Indians amassed 112.6 points to hold off the Vikings, who finished just a half a point behind at 112.1.
“I knew that before our last rotation, we were up less than four tenths (of a point),” Barcelli said of Portage's 85.1 to 84.725 lead going into bars. “Valpo had three nines which is better than what we've been getting on bars all season, pretty much. I just knew I needed a solid routine, and I came up with one.”
Teammates Danielle Solis (8.35 with a fall) and Madison Kurtz (9.5) were Portage's other two bar scorers. When Barcelli hit the ground after her bar routine, the entire team rushed her for a celebration.
“I don't even think she hit the ground,” Kurtz said with a laugh. “She was just landing when we were running.”
Barcelli also captured all-around honors with a 38.325, holding off Angola's Alex Nickel (38.150).
“After I realized what a great meet she had today, the whole mom pride thing stepped in,” said Portage coach Karen Barcelli, who frantically did math on her hand during Portage's bar routine to determine how many points her team needed.“They did what they needed to do (on bars).”
Portage had a near-perfect vault, scoring a 29.2, which was the highest score of the meet. Solis nailed a 9.85.
“We were knocking on the door of 29's all year,” Karen Barcelli said. “Danielle, I'm just so proud of her. We know what a good vault she has.”
Portage's win may not have happened had Valpraiso's Morgan Algozine not fallen off the beam. She ended with a 9.125 and was visibly upset after the way it ended, before coach Lorie Cook told her that one day does not define a gymnastics career.
“When she said that, it got me,” said Algozine, who finished third in all-around (37.925) and won both vault (9.875) and bars (9.7). “It was a rough day, but I've done really well for this team. I'm really glad that I got to have the opportunity to be here. Everything that's come out of this program for me and this team, it's amazing, a great experience and I'm really happy I've done that.”
Valpo freshman Lia Milroy scored a 9.625 on bars and a 9.15 on floor, and the future seems bright.
“It has been the best experience,” she said of competing at state, “The people I met on this team; I'm going to cherish this forever.”