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1. Valparaiso

Once again, look out for the Vikings. A perennial state power, Valparaiso is again positioned to make another state title run as they look to go back-to-back and aim their third title in the last four seasons. Valpo won't even need to reload as it returns its entire state champion team, which includes three state medalists and first team all-state performers in Rachel Moneta (state champ on floor), Whitney McKeon and Jenna Algozine as well as second team all-stater Lizzy Wilson. Megan Wagenblast competed on beam at state as a freshman and freshman Hallie Utsler figures to be in the mix as well as she's impressed early on on vault. "Our goal is to always make a run at it, especially returning a state champ team. Every single girl has added a skill and we're always trying to raise the bar," coach Lorie Cook said. "With how strong our area is, we'll have our hands full in our own conference, let alone in the state."

2. Chesterton

Nipping on the Vikings' heels are the Trojans, who finished third at the state meet and a mere .325 out of first. Chesterton returns nearly everyone, led by sophomore Sophie Hunzelman, last year's all-around and bars state champion. The Trojans are talented at the top with Jordan Bush, a first-team all-stater who won two state medals, second-team all-stater Lexi Avey and freshman Mia Pak. While strong one through four, Chesterton also provides excellent depth with Alyssa Donovan, Maddie Juestel, Brittney Troup, Whitney Siewin and Jamie Stento. "We have so much depth that sometimes I'm not even sure where to put everyone," coach Dawn Matthys said. "It's a blessing and a curse, but it's a great problem to have. The girls challenge my lineup each day and I love it when they can make me think harder."

3. Portage

The third spot in the Region is by all accounts up for grabs, but the Indians seem to have the inside track. Portage began last season scoring around 104 and finished at 109.3 at sectionals, its highest total of the season. The Indians have already eclipsed last season's mark with a 110.7 in a meet against Lake Central. Junior Michaella Drake qualified for regionals in the all-around last season and would have formed an impressive 1-2 punch with freshman Bobbie Russell before the talented freshman tore her ACL in December. Fellow juniors Sydney Ruiz tied for sixth on floor at the Duneland Athletic Conference meet last year and Callie Joseph is one of the team's top vaulters. Seniors Ariana Delgado, Kristin Gaffney, Emma Garzella and Cassie Prohl will also play major roles in their specific events. "Teams are going to have to compete and bring their 'A' game against us," coach Lisa Whipps said. "The kids have trained hard over the summer and we have girls who are strong in their individual events."

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Sports Reporter

CJ grew up shadowing his father, Jim, at various prep events and now follows in his footsteps as a sports reporter at The Times. A Purdue University graduate, his allegiances lie with the Boilermakers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds.