Allyson Kraft might not have started her prep gymnastics career with a massive skills set, but that hasn't prevented the Valparaiso senior from becoming an integral part of the lineup.
Kraft placed 27th on vault at the state meet as freshman. Last year, she competed on three events and was second on the team with her 22nd on beam (8.95). She's been a part of three state championship teams, and she's never experienced a loss in a Duneland Athletic Conference dual meet. On the state gymnastics web site, she's eighth on beam (9.55) and 16th in all-around (36.7).
"She had no twisting vaults and she didn't have any hard skills on beam," Valparaiso coach Lorie Cook said of Kraft's modest beginnings. "She really took things to heart. ... She's learned a huge amount of difficult skills and put herself in a situation to contribute.
"It's not always where you start, it's more important where you end up."
Kraft is one of three seniors on this year's squad, and she's helped keep the four-time defending state champions unbeaten so far this season.
In the top-ranked Vikings' closest meet of the year, a 111.95-110.875 DAC nail-biter victory against No. 3 Portage on Feb. 9, Kraft provided a huge lift on beam.
The senior heard the noise created by the host Indians' fan section, but that didn't keep her from winning the event with a 9.475.
"They were extremely loud and rowdy," Kraft said. "I just used that energy to make my best routine. I had my teammates by my side."
The routine included a newly-learned twisting back dismount.
"It didn't come easy for her," Cook said. "She kept her nose to the grindstone.
"That routine was huge. It was pretty rewarding to watch."
Kraft remains pretty humble about her success, giving most of the credit to others.
"When I was a freshman, I definitely never pictured myself doing the stuff I'm doing now," Kraft said. "The coaches have motivated me, and my teammates have pushed me to get new skills.
"That senior group did a really good job of showing me what was right and acceptable. I've carried on all of that stuff and teach it now."
Cook believes that Kraft is a great example of what hard work and perseverance can do for an athlete.
"She's pretty much living proof of what you need to do," Cook said. "She's learned that you have to be ready at any point, and she's responded."
The next big test is Saturday's DAC meet at defending champion Chesterton.
"There's no time for rest," Kraft said. "(Last year's) loss is in back of my mind, and we just try to not dwell on it.
"We've been able to bounce back before, and everyone knows that they have to be ready."
That's been a part of Kraft's mindset for four seasons.
"It's been really exciting to look back and see how everything has changed for me," she said. "There's a little bit of shock. It's was a little scary at the beginning, but it's turned into a great experience."