Portage's Madison Kurtz might only be a freshman, but she's hardly an inexperienced gymnast.
She started the sport with a Mommy and Me class at the age of 2, and she's been competitive since she was 6.
"She's a lifelong gymnast," Portage coach Karen Barcelli said of Kurtz. "She's very determined, and she's got great showmanship."
Kurtz has been fairly successful this season for the state No. 2 Indians. According to the Indiana High School Gymnastics website, she's ranked 14th in the all-around (37.1), 12th on bars (9.425), 16th on vault (9.5), 19th on beam (9.45) and 27th on floor (9.45).
Against top-ranked Valparaiso on Feb. 9, she placed third on both bars (9.375) and vault (9.5) plus fourth on both all-around (36.325) and floor (9.325).
Then at last week's Duneland Athletic Conference meet, she placed fourth on vault (9.4), fifth on bars (9.4) and sixth on floor (9.3).
"She's definitely lived up to expectations," Barcelli said. "She's had to pick up some skills requirements going from club to high school, but she's accepted that pretty well."
Kurtz admits the atmosphere is different in high school gymnastics, but she embraces the change.
"The mindset changes, and you're doing it for the team," Kurtz said. "I get so pumped up, and it's so much more fun."
Kurtz worked with Barcelli a few years ago in club, and both the believe the experience has paid dividends.
"I know where she's coming from, and I feel more comfortable," Kurtz said.
"That's helped immensely," said Barcelli, who previously coached eight of the nine current members of the Indians. "You've got to know what's going on in their head. If you don't, you might do more harm then good."
Kurtz provides the team with needed depth. In four events, she either has the second- or third-best score. She complements a roster that includes junior Mackenzie Barcelli, the coach's daughter, and sophomore Danielle Solis, who own the fifth- and ninth-best all-around scores in the state.
"They're so supportive, and they make it seem like a family," Kurtz said. "Even if I mess up, they back me up. We're like sisters."
As for the competition, Kurtz enjoys vault and floor the best.
"I just have fun dancing, and our team is really strong on floor," said Kurtz, whose teammates own three of the top 16 scores in the state. "On vault, you get to put all of your power into it and let it loose."
Kurtz doesn't plan on holding back in any event at Saturday's Chesterton Sectional.
"I have no idea of what to expect, so I'm going along for the ride," she said. "We've kept working all season and haven't slacked off. I'm going to do my all and give it my best."