Practice sometimes becomes a little much for Morgan Algozine, but a few images give the Valparaiso senior gymnast the boost she needs to finish.
Valparaiso had its four-year reign snapped by Fort Wayne Dwenger at last year's state finals. Over a month ago, Portage snapped a longtime Duneland Athletic Conference dual-meet streak.
"When I get tired and want to stop, I remember that I have to keep pushing," Algozine said. "I haven't totally erased (the losses), and I keep them in a tiny corner of my mind.
"I know how I felt then, and I don't want to go back there."
The state No. 4 Vikings have been on a roll lately, winning the Duneland Athletic Conference meet, sectional and regional titles in consecutive weeks. The next goal is Saturday's state finals -- and a state-record 10th crown.
The team is led by Algozine and classmates Hannah Erwin and Emily Crosmer. All three have competed in the past three state finals, and Algozine is the reigning all-around state champion.
That award was hardly enough to overshadow last season's disappointment.
"It's a lot more fun to celebrate with the team that wins than celebrate as an individual," Algozine said. "We've been on both sides, and that does help give us some perspective."
Coach Lorie Cook is happy to have three veterans in her lineup.
"Success breeds success," Cook said. "It's important to have that experience. They know what it takes to win."
And the veterans have been able to impart their knowledge on first-time state competitors like sophomore Rushelle Miller and freshmen Caroline Miller and Lia Milroy.
Rushelle Miller was practicing on the side at last year's state meet, while the experience is whole new adventure for the freshmen.
"I've heard the stories and I've taken it all to heart," said Milroy, who competes on floor, bars and beam. "It's been a surprise to do this much this season. I want to help the team regain the fame."
Milroy will start the team on floor and beam -- the team's first and last rotations, respectively, at the Worthen Arena in Muncie on Saturday.
"I want to helps us get off to a good start," she said. "I hope to hit my routines and see what happens."
The Vikings' second and third rotations are vault and bars, respectively, the same order the team had at last week's regional and the Concordia Classic on Jan. 19, where Valpo defeated the defending state champs.
"You can analyze rotations many different ways," Cook said. "At Concordia, we went four for four (no falls) on beam, but we're prepared for anything."
The Vikings also have a steely focus on their scores. The Vikings' 113.95 at sectional is over a point higher than any other team's top result this season.
"We only can focus on what we can control," Algozine said. "If we work hard enough and do our best, we won't have to worry about what other teams do."