VALPARAISO | Tumbling for the Times No. 1 Valparaiso gymnastics team, sophomore Lia Milroy has a distinct advantage over much of the competition.
Milroy — an all-state honoree as a freshman — is already one of the best gymnasts on her team. But with 17 other teammates, Milroy hasn’t been thrown into the same leadership role as many young region gymnasts. Instead, Milroy has been able to grow into the role while older teammates pave the way.
“I have a really supportive team and great coaching, so that helps a lot,” Milroy said. “It’s really fun. We’ve been through a lot as a team. For people to be able to step up and fill those (leadership) shoes has given me a great opportunity.”
Nearing the midway point of her sophomore season, Milroy is beginning to inherit some of those leadership responsibilities. No matter whether the team is competing or simply practicing, Milroy is excited just to be there. Her positive attitude is contagious.
“She won our mental attitude award last year and that pretty much sums it up,” Vikings coach Lorie Cook said. “If she has a bad break she’s able to get right back on that positive track right away.”
The tradition of success in the Valparaiso gymnastics program is meaningful to Milroy. She understands where the program has been and knows she’ll have to contribute to keep the program at that high level.
“Lia came into our gym before her freshman year and recognized and welcomed the team atmosphere and the idea that team-first is important. She embraces that concept,” Cook said. “She is always a hard worker and generally has a positive attitude. She’s pretty persistent in the pursuit of her goals. She’s a determined person and the tradition of our team (success) means a lot to her and she wants to try to do her part.”
Milroy was given a trial-run as the leader of the program late last month when junior Rushelle Miller suffered a foot injury and missed a meet against LaPorte. Like she has many times this season, Milroy led the Vikings to a team win, taking all-around individual honors with first-place finishes in the floor exercise, uneven bars and vault. Even though the fellow all-arounder Miller was out, Milroy said she didn’t feel a higher urgency to perform well.
“I don’t think any extra pressure was put on because of the depth that our team has,” Milroy said. “But she’s a big part of our team, so that wasn’t the best thing, having her out.”
Even after a successful turn as the team leader, Milroy is thankful to have Miller working her way back into the rotation.
“It’s definitely a good thing,” Milroy said. “She has a lot to offer. She’s a great gymnast.”
Given the opportunity to grow into the role instead of being thrust into it, Milroy has been able to observe and learn how to be a leader. In an ever-changing environment like high school athletics, it’s a luxury not many are afforded.
“Every year is a new team, even if you have many people back from the prior year,” Cook said. “There has to be kind of a melting and molding of all of those personalities to establish what the atmosphere is going to be like in the gym.
“Lia’s been working to try to bring everyone together and to set the example for the way we want things done. We had some big shoes to fill and she’s been one of the ones to step up and help make things happen.”