Uneven bars is far from Brandi Tuzinski's favorite, but the Chesterton junior gymnast will be competing in that event at today's IHSAA state finals.
This will be Tuzinski's third trip to state. She participated with the Trojans as a freshman, finishing fourth on vault. Last year, she was an individual competitor in all-around, and this time bars is her lone event.
"She's had a great attitude this week," Chesterton coach Lauren West said of Tuzinski. "It's amazing how mentally tough she is."
Tuzinski has shown that trait the last few weeks. Her fall on beam at sectional open the door for Crown Point to take the third and final regional-qualifying spot.
"That wasn't easy to get over," Tuzinski said.
Staring at an early exit in last week's regional, Tuzinski dealt with the pressure on her last event and qualified for state with a fourth-place finish (9.4).
Earlier in the season, Tuzinski had mental blocks on bars.
"I refused to let go of the bars on my overshoot (bars release move) for a very long time," Tuzinski said. "I knew (at the regional) that I had only one routine left, so there was really no holding back.
"With so many mental issues on bars, it's kind of cool that I qualified. I don't feel as nervous this season. I'm really excited about state."
Portage stands out on floor: Floor exercise has been a strength for Portage this season, and one event the Indians have stood out in for other reasons.
For the second straight season, the first few seconds of music on each routine is a recording of drum beats. That distinctive sounds lets the audience know that Portage is competing on floor.
Coach Karen Barcelli has taken her squad to college meets the past few seasons, and the idea originated there. Barcelli said Ball State has bird chirps at the beginning of their routines, because their nickname is the Cardinals. She also said Florida gymnasts employ a "Gator Chop" in their routines.
"It does make us stand out," Barcelli said. "It shows our pride for our school and helps build a strong team bond."
Barcelli hopes that strong bond will translate in a breakthrough performance at the finals for the state No. 1-ranked Indians and possibly lead to the program's second-ever state crown. Portage finished fourth last season, and its 112.8 is second only to Valparaiso's 113.95 as the top team score this season.
"Anything can happen," Barcelli said. "We're still looking to having the perfect meet."
Maxwell continues to shine: Morgan Township freshman Kylee Maxwell underestimated her fan base at last week's Valparaiso Regional.
She originally thought 30 to 40 supporters were there, but she found a day later that close to 70 fans were on hand.
"I couldn't believe it when we started to count who was actually there," said Maxwell, who won bars (9.8). "That was very cool."
She doesn't expect as large of a crowd at today's state finals, because the trip to Muncie takes more than three hours. Maxwell still hopes to thrill those who make the trip.
"I'm both nervous and excited, since this will be my first state meet," she said. "I just want to do good on my routines."