MUNCIE | After three rotations, it appeared Valparaiso’s season-long domination of Indiana high school gymnastics might come to a premature end.
The Vikings sat in second place for much of the day, but ended the state championship meet on floor – the event Valparaiso had scored highest on at regional.
Conversely, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger had to finish the competition on beam, its lowest score at regionals.
“We knew it was possible,” Valparaiso coach Lorie Cook said. “We felt good about our chances, that it was possible to do it. We knew we would have to perform well, and we did.”
Valpo scored a meet-high 28.35 on floor to win the state championship with a 111.85. Dwenger, which led by less than half a point after three rotations, counted a fall on beam (27.75) and finished in second (111.225). Merrillville placed fifth (107.425).
“It’s amazing. It’s awesome. It’s been a journey, for sure,” Cook said. “These kids have improved tremendously through a lot, a lot of hard work and believing in each other and pushing each other. That’s how it happened.”
It is Valparaiso’s first state title since 2011. The Vikings finished runner-up to Dwenger in 2012 and to Portage last year. Valpo extended its own state record with a 10th championship, well ahead of Homestead (six championships) and Dwenger (five).
Valparaiso did not have an individual champion in any event, but sophomore Lia Milroy placed second in all-around (37.725) behind Morgan Township sophomore Kylee Maxwell (37.8).
After just squeaking onto the all-around podium at the Valparaiso regional, Crown Point’s Hannah Best became the third Northwest Indiana sophomore to medal in the all-around at the 2014 state championship.
Best’s 37.225 placed her in sixth, behind Maxwell and Valparaiso’s Lia Milroy.
“I was more confident than I have been before,” said Best, who competed as an all-arounder after qualifying in just two events last year. “It was a lot more nerve-wracking. I wasn’t nervous at all last year, but since I had a good sectional and regionals it was better.”
Best’s highest event score was a 9.5 on bars, good for a sixth-place medal. It was a revelation for coach Ami Pysh, who told Best all season a medal on bars was possible at the state meet.
“She got her highest score of the year on vault and bars today. She reserved the best for last,” Pysh said. “Of course she’s not going to listen to the coach, but I’ve been telling her, ‘Listen, you have a state bar routine; you do.’ She doesn’t do it for me all year, all year, all year … of course, then she gets a 9.5 and I’m like, ‘What did I tell you?’
“That was fun to be at state and have her get two personal bests.”
A quality first impression: Merrillville freshman Heather Osorio was the Pirates' top finisher in all-around, placing 13th (36.5). She also tied for ninth on bars (9.325).