Gymnastics | State finals

Valparaiso's gymnastics team aims for fifth consecutive state title

2012-03-15T17:00:00Z 2012-12-23T20:24:47Z Valparaiso's gymnastics team aims for fifth consecutive state titleBy Jim Hunsley jim.hunsley@nwi.com, (219) 548-4356 nwitimes.com

Saturday in Muncie, Valparaiso's gymnastics team has a chance to extend its existing records for consecutive and overall state titles.

Valparaiso already has nine crowns, including four in a row.

It's a thought not lost on Vikings junior Emily Crosmer.

"It's already a huge accomplishment," said Crosmer, who's also competed at state the last two seasons. "Just breaking our own record would be a great feeling. We know every year we have teammates that can step up."

The numbers might back up that assertion. During this win streak, 15 gymnasts have competed for Valparaiso at the state finals. The current cast of Crosmer, Morgan Algozine, Allyson Kraft, Allie Lazerwitz and Hannah Erwin have all competed in past state meets.

"There's definitely a sense of maturity and determination with these girls," said Valparaiso coach Lorie Cook, who's been on board for all nine state championships. "There's a calmness about them. They just go out and do their jobs and perform.

"There's a confidence among each other -- a trust that everyone is on their side. They're working hard every day. There's just a sense of security, knowing that all of these people are believing in you."

Cook believe hard work and mental toughness are the keys for the success. There's no grand plan. On three of the state championship teams in the run, Valparaiso had three girls in all-around. Last season, two girls competed in all-around and just Algozine performs on every apparatus this season.

"There's no true formula; it's not like we plan to have four all-arounders each year," Cook said. "I would hate to think we would have four all-arounders, because that would leave out the rest of the team.

"I'm proud of the fact that we have 16 girls working hard and continuing to put in the time."

There also seems to be an understanding of always being prepared for the unknown. Injuries have juggled past lineups. This season, 2011 all-around champion Steffanie Long decided to opt out of her senior year on the squad. Despite that fact, the Vikings have remained unbeaten this season and remain the favorites for Saturday's meet.

"Anything can happen," Algozine said. "We just try to stress that everyone on the team is important. Everyone makes a difference, whether they are competing now or down the road."

At this point, Algozine could be considered the key piece to Valparaiso's puzzle. The defending bars champion posted state-best marks this season in all-around (38.975), bars (9.85) and vault (9.9). She achieved her all-around and vault scores at last Friday's Valparaiso Regional.

"I definitely look at it as a job for my team," said Algozine, who was third in all-around at state last season. "I have to continue to work hard, because nothing is never set in stone. They could put someone in for me.

"It's the greatest opportunity for me, and I just love to help my team."

Teammates admit their goal is to also be an all-around gymnast, but there's an understood unselfishness that permeates through the roster.

"It's all about the team," said Kraft, who competed at state as a freshman and junior. "Obviously, it's everyone's goal to compete in all-around, but this is a competition. We have to see how things fit. Every year can be different."

That unselfishness also drives certain members to win another crown.

"The huge thing that drives me is knowing that our freshman have never experienced this before," Crosmer said. "It's an almost indescribable feeling. I want them to have a chance to experience this."

But a steely focus still remains on the task at hand.

"It's exciting to know we might make more history," Kraft said. "I'm not thinking about that now. I'm focusing more on the meet. After it's over, it probably will hit me how great it is to do this again."

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