VALPARAISO | Allie Lazerwitz stood on the grandest stage of her gymnastics career, determined to provide her Valparaiso teammates with something to build off.
At the 2011 state gymnastics meet, Lazerwitz was the first Valpo competitor up on the beam event. It was also the first time she had ever competed in a state meet.
"You have to set the tone for the whole meet," Lazerwitz said. "It's not a lot of pressure, but you want to get everybody started. If you hit your beam routine and you're the first one up, then it has a domino effect. It'll help everybody from there."
Lazerwitz hit her beam routine effectively, scoring an 8.525 and helping the Vikings win their fourth consecutive state championship last season.
"It's absolutely wonderful," Valpo coach Lorie Cook said. "When kids like that step up and to what they're capable of in the largest venue, you live for those moments. It's just really gratifying and wonderful to see Allie and anyone like that do what they're capable of."
Lazerwitz's efforts last season were even more impressive, given the fact that last season was her first significant varsity action. Since then, she's improved her physical gymnastics skills tremendously, including adding a skill on her bars routine that has helped her score increase from high 8s to mid 9s.
"I do an overshoot, which is a release going from the high bar to the low bar," said Lazerwitz, who finished fourth at the Chesterton Sectional in bars (9.275) and vault (9.45). "It's an impressive skill as it is, and if you do a handstand on the high bar going into the skill, it makes it a lot harder and makes the skill a new level of difficulty. That's made my bar routine score go up quite a bit."
Lazerwitz's confidence level has increased leaps and bounds since her freshman year, no doubt a factor of mental maturity during competition.
"I remember I'd always have trouble controlling my emotions, and it's hard to have to after you've not done your best routine," she said. "I think that this year, I've tried to always be upbeat for my teammates. I think it's helped a lot."
While Valpo's team goal is obviously to advance past the Valparaiso Regional and return for a chance at a fifth consecutive state championship, Lazerwitz has set some personal objectives, as well.
"One of my personal goals since freshman year is to place on something at state," she said. "This year I think I have a chance at bars. Getting fourth at sectionals makes me think I can do it."