WHEELER | Rooting for Morgan Algozine's Valparaiso High School gymnastics team is like rooting for the New York Yankees.
Except the Vikings' dynasty is more dominant.
"We'll be back next season," Algozine said of Valparaiso's runner-up showing behind Fort Wayne Dwenger at the state finals, which prevented the team from claiming its fifth-straight title and 10th overall -- four-straight and nine overall are both state records already.
Algozine did her best to rally the team, which was in third place going into the final round. Her first-place score of 9.95 in the vault -- her final event -- was a state record. Coupled with another state title in the balance beam, the junior claimed the all-around championship.
Now that prep season is over, it's Big League time for Algozine.
"It's great to represent your school and support your teammates and friends," Algozine said of high school gymnastics, "but this (USA Gymnastics competition) is for the real serious gymnasts ... the ones who do this year-round."
At the USAG Region 5 Regionals held April 13-15 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Algozine tied for first in vault, took second on the balance beam and placed sixth in all-around in Level 9.
By finishing in the top six in all-around at a meet that attracted top-notch gymnasts from five states, Algozine qualified for the USAG Eastern Championships to take place Thursday through Sunday in Landover, Md.
"I think she can do very well," said Lisa Whipps, who has been training Algozine since she was 3 years old at her gym, Indiana Elite Gymnastics (formerly Lisa's Gymnastics).
"Especially on the vault," Whipps said. "It takes a lot of grace to be a successful gymnasts, but to do well on the vault you need to be a powerful athlete. And Morgan is very powerful."
Whipps considers Algozine the "Cream of the crop" among the gymnasts she has trained over the past two decades.
Algozine, who also was a high school state champion in the uneven bars (2010), is on the verge of reaching Level 10, the highest of the numeral levels. The next level, Elite, is the final stop for Olympic-caliber gymnasts.
"I need to get more consistent with my scores," said Algozine, who trains four days a week at Indiana Elite. "I need to improve on the floor, my weakest event. I fell (during the floor exercise in Indianapolis), but I still managed to qualify."