MUNCIE | Already well-established as the state's preeminent gymnastics program, Valparaiso etched its name in the record books one more time Saturday at Ball State's Worthen Arena.
The Vikings topped Fort Wayne Dwenger, 112.725-112.025, to claim their state-leading ninth state title and also become the first school to win four in a row.
"It's pretty sweet," Valpo coach Lorie Cook said. "It's a huge tribute to the kids out there on the floor and the ones who've gone before them. It takes an army. They're amazing people and our coaching staff is amazing."
After counting a fall on the balance beam to open the meet, Valpo slightly trailed Dwenger and Columbus North at the halfway point. It jumped into the lead on its third rotation (vault) and all but sealed the outcome with a strong bars set.
"It was a battle start to finish," Cook said. "Personally, I love to win by a lot. The close ones are hard. It takes a lot of mental toughness, focus. It didn't go exactly how it was scripted, but it can be done different ways. They didn't give up. They've never quit the whole year. We didn't have a perfect meet, but that's why you have depth. Sometimes, that No. 4 kid is your No. 3 score. They kept fighting. Dwenger put the pressure on us, going four for four on beam, so it was good to see us do what we could do on bars."
Steffanie Long became Valpo's state-best 10th all-around champion, scoring 38.325. The junior also won floor exercise (9.85) and vault (9.675) and placed fourth on bars (9.475).
"Oh my gosh, it's just so incredible," Long said. "I'm so happy right now. I can't believe it. This is one of the best feelings of my entire life, to share it with everyone on the team. To be compared to someone like Angie (Cook) and Kellee (Kidd), my heart's skipping 10 beats."
Save for a beam fall, it would've been Morgan Algozine in that spot. The sophomore rebounded impressively to capture bars (9.675) and claim runner-up to Long on floor (9.725) and vault (9.65).
"The only thing you can do is move on," Algozine said. "You can't dwell on it, let it get in your head. The team was there to help me through it. It was a great meet. There was nothing more I could ask for. I don't know how to put it into words."
Chesterton followed Columbus North (110.675) in fourth with 109.875, matching last year's showing.
"We came in with a little higher expectations," Trojans coach Kathy Wilburn said. "Our vaults were amazing. We just weren't able to put all four events together. But fourth in the state is nothing to be ashamed of. I was pleased with the attitude and effort of the team. They're a great group of girls. I love 'em."
Freshman Brandi Tuzinski was Chesterton's sole medalist, picking up fourth on vault (9.575), just ahead of teammate Emily Kozak (9.55).
"I think it's pretty cool," Tuzinski said. "I'm real surprised. I don't think I would (place) at all. Actually, I was expecting everyone to be 10 times better than me."