First-year Big Walnut High School girls basketball coach Steve Palmer couldn't be happier with his team's start to the season.
The Golden Eagles were 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Delaware Hayes on Dec. 13.
Big Walnut opened Nov. 26 with a 48-44 win over Buckeye Valley. It then defeated Franklin Heights 60-35 in its league opener Nov. 29 and beat Bexley 53-18 on Dec. 3, holding the Lions scoreless in the first period.
Palmer took over the program from Bob Scott, who stepped down after compiling a 166-124 record in 13 seasons.
"It's a new coach, a new style," Palmer said. "When a coach has been there awhile, the system is in place and the kids change year to year. With a new coach, everything is new, so I'm super excited about our start."
Leading the way for the Golden Eagles is guard Makenna Hammond, who was averaging a team-high 16 points through three games. She had a game-high 21 against Franklin Heights and scored 17 against Bexley.
Skylar Fleak, a 6-foot forward who averaged a team-high 11 points last season, was averaging 13.3 points and 5-10 center Sara Petty was averaging seven points.
"They're our one-two combo right now," Palmer said of Hammond and Fleak.
Palmer will face his former team when Big Walnut travels to Worthington Kilbourne on Tuesday, Dec. 17, for an OCC-Capital game. Palmer coached the Wolves the past six seasons, compiling a 35-94 record.
Kilbourne was in the OCC-Cardinal last season.
"I still have friendships there that have developed," Palmer said. "It's hard to put those aside. But once the basketball is tipped, I'll be in coaching mode."
Big Walnut was scheduled to play a league game Dec. 6 at home against Olentangy, but the contest was postponed because of bad weather. The postponement created a 10-day gap between games for the Golden Eagles.
"Olentangy is a big rival and that's a big league game," Palmer said. "(Olentangy) is probably the favorite in the league. We were looking forward to that. We had some good momentum. It's nice to get a break, just not this early in the season."
The contest against Olentangy has been rescheduled for Jan. 11. Big Walnut will play the Braves again six days later at Olentangy.
"That's going to be a heck of a week for us when we get to that set of games," Palmer said.
Experience should help gymnastics team
Seventh-year gymnastics coach Misty Lloyd-Matthews believes experience is what sets this season's team apart from last year's.
"It's completely different," she said. "Last year was a rebuilding year. We had four freshmen and three girls new to the sport. The progress they made from the beginning of the year last year to the end was remarkable."
Big Walnut returns all four gymnasts from last season in sophomores Carlee Ambrose, Jordan Apple, Katelyn Connor and Brianna Glidden.
Last season in the district meet, Connor led the team in all four events and the all-around, finishing 69th (7.9) on floor exercise, tying for 76th (6.6) on uneven bars, tying for 80th (7.2) on balance beam, tying for 88th (7.55) on vault and finishing 63rd in the all-around (29.25).
Big Walnut finished 22nd (103.85) of 24 teams at district, behind champion Kilbourne (140.625).
"We've got those four returning," Lloyd-Matthews said. "I think last year's experience will really be a huge factor for them."
Also on the team are freshmen Mariah Chattos, Grace Ditomassi, Taylor Grieser, Andrea Robinson and Kristina Saraceno.
"They're all young," Lloyd-Matthews said. "It's a young team. But if they continue maturing, they could be one of the strongest teams Big Walnut has ever had."
Last season, Big Walnut placed fifth (105.5) in the OCC-Capital meet, behind Hilliard Bradley (128.925), Dublin Jerome (122.85), Olentangy Orange (120.05) and Franklin Heights (107.525) and ahead of Central Crossing (104.35).
The Golden Eagles went 0-5 in league duals and finished sixth in the overall league standings with six points, behind Bradley (24, 5-0), Orange (18, 4-1), Jerome (18, 3-2), Franklin Heights (10, 1-4) and Central Crossing (8, 2-3).
Marysville and Westerville Central have joined the OCC-Capital this season.
The Golden Eagles were scheduled to compete against Marysville in a league dual Dec. 6, but the meet was postponed because of bad weather. The rescheduled date for the meet has not been announced.
Wrestling team opens with home tourney
The wrestling team opened Dec. 7 by finishing last (132 points) in the eight-team Big Walnut Classic on Dec. 7.
Galion (248.5) won the event, followed by Jonathan Alder (220), Galion Northmor (209), Tiffin Columbian (197.5), Bainbridge Paint Valley (175.5), Cambridge (167), North Union (137) and Big Walnut.
The top finisher for the Golden Eagles was sophomore Wes Landrum, who went 3-0 at 132 pounds to finish first in Pool B. Going 2-1 and placing second were senior R.J. Martin at 145, sophomore Jacob Hadden at 126 and sophomore Anthony Pisano at 160.