PORTAGE | Danielle Solis isn’t quite ready to start a retrospective on a gymnastics career that started when she was just six years old.
A senior at Portage, Solis is preparing to lead the defending state champion Indians on another deep run in the IHSAA tournament. She plans to savor the moment of every event in every meet.
“Senior year has been really good,” Solis said. “It’s kind of bittersweet because I’ve been doing gymnastics since I was so young, but I’m just trying to enjoy every competition that I have left.”
Times No. 3 Portage will next compete in the Duneland Athletic Conference meet on Saturday at Crown Point. While two-time defending champion Valparaiso is the favorite, Indians coach Karen Barcelli knows anything can happen as Portage, Merrillville and Michigan City all look to play spoiler.
“The DAC — the meet itself — is kind of up in the air as to who might win the meet,” Barcelli said. “It’s pretty important. I think that the second-place finish is probably the most important in the DAC this year because of how the season has gone. We’re just looking to be solid and we’re obviously going to try to win the meet.”
Heading into the DAC meet and the IHSAA postseason, Barcelli will look to Solis — and junior Madison Kurtz — to set an example for the relatively young Portage team.
“I always look to her for leadership. She and Madison both have led the way,” Barcelli said. “We’ve got a lot of less experienced gymnasts who are kind of rounding out our roster, but Danielle and Madison both take a lot on themselves. They both know they have a lot riding on their shoulders, but they don’t let that show very often.”
Solis had arguably the best meet of her career on Portage’s senior night against rival Valparaiso, when she tied her own school record with a 9.825 on the vault and then set a new program record with a 9.85 in the floor routine. Solis took first all-around (37.975) in that meet and the Indians scored a season-high 109.825 as a team.
“I just went in there kind of doing it for myself and really enjoying my senior night,” Solis said. “I had all my family there to support me, so that was really nice. There was just a really good vibe in the gym and I was just going off of it and enjoying it.”
The performance didn’t surprise Barcelli.
“I knew she was going to do it this year,” the coach said. “I’ve actually told her she could probably break the all-around record. I told her that; I don’t know if she really believed it, but I know she could. Her floor routine was almost flawless on senior night.”
With her senior season rapidly winding down, Solis is hoping to have more career nights and lead the Indians back to the state championship meet.
“Honestly, it just (recently) came to my mind that the season is almost over and finally we’re going into postseason,” Solis said. “I feel like it’s been so long. I can’t wait for it.
"I’m really preparing mentally for it because I don’t want the season to end because it will be my last time doing gymnastics. I’ve just really been trying to buckle down on everything and so that I can leave gymnastics on a good note.”