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).
“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).
Last year, it was the Vikings counting a fall on beam as Portage eked its way to a state title. Two years ago, the Saints led after three rotations and finished on beam but were still able to best the Vikings. Valparaiso ended on vault that year.
Valparaiso spent the entire season ranked No. 1 in the state coaches poll, nearly always followed closely by Dwenger. The Vikings knew the state finals would be tightly contested.
“They’re a really, really good team,” Cook said of Dwenger. “They’re very strong on every event, they have great skills, great coaches and they’ve got experience. We knew it would be a battle.”
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).
Milroy anchored the Vikings’ winning floor routine, tying for sixth with a 9.45 behind teammate Rushelle Miller’s 9.75, who placed fifth.
“Consistency is the biggest key,” Milroy said. “Having consistent team scores is good. The team support kind of takes the pressure away.”
The Vikings finished the season undefeated. Returning all of its scorers next season, Valparaiso already has a strong foundation for a chance to repeat.
“I hope that they will keep the same fire that they had this year and the same ability to work together and push each other to get better,” Cook said. “That’s how it happened this year. We did not have the skills we needed at the beginning of the season, and they worked really hard to get it.”