NEW PALESTINE — For New Palestine’s first trip, since 2017, as a full team to the IHSAA Gymnastics State Finals, coach Deb Bruns is making sure ‘team’ is emphasized.

All eight available gymnasts will compete in today’s state finals in Muncie at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena.

Bruns has tweaked her postseason lineup to make sure everyone that is healthy enough to participate can get the experience of performing at the high school level’s ultimate event.

Of the nine schools competing in the team competition, the Dragons come in with the lowest score (from the regional) and are the only team not in the Indiana High School Gymnastics Coaches’ Top 10 Poll.

The other teams competing include No. 1 Valparaiso, No. 2 Crown Point, No. 3 Homestead, No. 4 Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, No. 6 Columbus North, No. 7 Carroll (Fort Wayne), No. 9 Lake Central and No. 10 Bloomington North.

“We’re coming in with the lowest score of the nine teams. I know these kids have done well and have surprised me and maybe we could do a little bit better,” Bruns said. “What’s more important? … Those kids in 10 years can say, ‘I got to compete at state.’ That, to me, is more important than, we might finish eighth. That’s what I wanted for them. They’ve all worked all year to get to this position and it’s more of a team effort when everybody is involved. It’s not just (sophomore standout) JJ (Fee) and (freshman sectional all-around champion) Lynzie (Stiller), it’s everyone on the team contributing. It makes anything we do that much more meaningful to them.”

Senior Emily Hunter will return to compete on vault, something she had done the past two postseasons, but has not been in the lineup the last two weeks. Freshman Reagan Seal will take Stiller’s spot on balance beam. Both Hunter and Seal have been alternates during this year’s sectional and regional.

The rest of the lineup will be the same as the regional. Fee will compete in the all-around. Stiller will do all events, but beam. Frosh Olivia Frank is on floor exercise and uneven bars. Sophomore Chiara Polo, who subbed in on bars in sectional competition, will do beam. Junior Rebecca Johnson remains on vault and senior Addy Kendall will do everything but the vault.

“The memories of these kids that can go back and say, ‘I competed at state,’ that’s more important than, we might place one spot higher. Look, we just placed ninth in the state, we can’t do any worse than that. When I was at Warren (Central) and we made state, we did the exact same thing. I felt it was very beneficial. Education-based athletics is different, you have to look at the aspect of what’s best for team and not individually.”

The Dragons are by no means throwing in the towel. One of the things that has made the 2023 season so special is the team’s depth. When called upon, they’ve performed. Though unranked in the coach’s poll throughout the season, the Dragons did go 17-1 in dual competitions, losing only to No. 6 Columbus North, the team that finished one spot ahead of them at the regional. The Dragons did score better than the Bulldogs on balance beam last week.

Fee comes in with the momentum of a strong performance at the regional. She placed third in the all-around and was third in both the beam and floor exercise. She was fourth on vault. Stiller was 11th in the regional’s all-around competition and placed 12th on floor. Kendall was ninth on beam and 12th on uneven bars.

The Dragons scored a season-high 105.9 last week. Valparaiso had the highest score in its regional, winning with a 113.9. Homestead won the Huntington North Regional with a total of 113.325. Six of the nine teams at state scored 108.5 or higher. The Dragons weren’t too far off Carroll, a third-place finisher at Huntington with a 106.5.

2023 IHSAA Gymnastics State Finals

Date: Today

Site: Worthen Arena, Ball State University, 1699 W. Bethel Avenue, Muncie.

Time: Doors open to spectators at 10 am ET; Opening ceremonies at 11 am ET; Competition at 11:30 am ET.

Admission: $15 per person. All ticketing is being handled digitally through your mobile phone and may be purchased in advance via GoFan. Patrons will enter at Gate 1 on the northeast side of the facility.

Participating teams: Bloomington North, Carroll (Fort Wayne), Columbus North, Crown Point, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, Homestead, Lake Central, New Palestine, Valparaiso