Olentangy Orange High School gymnastics coach Jen Hedrick is trying not to dwell on the fact that her team doesn't have as much depth as a year ago and lost junior Sierra Byas during the preseason to a season-ending knee injury.
The Pioneers opened their season Dec. 14, scoring 115.8 points to finish second in a quad-meet behind Thomas Worthington (121.45) and ahead of host Washington Court House Miami Trace (115.6) and Washington Court House (110.15).
"It's true that we don't have as much depth or many backups for when we have injuries," said Hedrick, who is in her fifth season. "But there are also some good things that come with having a smaller team. When you have less girls, you tend to have a closer team with less drama. And working with a smaller group gives us a chance to give each girl more individual coaching. I certainly wouldn't want to have any less than 10 girls on our team, but since we do have smaller numbers this year, we're going to try to take advantage of the situation and make a lot of improvements."
The Pioneers return seniors Kaleigh Jurcisek and Kelli Taylor, junior Danielle Chickerella and sophomores Michelle Dake, Sarah Daniel, Madison Lindeman and Julia Vogel. Also on the team are sophomore Alison Burke and freshmen Natalie Herning and Olivia Kewon.
Chickerella and Jurcisek are team captains.
"Seven of our girls can compete all-around, which should help," Hedrick said. "But three of our girls (Burke, Dake and Kewon) are varsity cheerleaders, so we won't have them when the boys basketball team is playing the same day."
Last season, Orange finished fifth (118.825) in the OCC-Capital Division meet, behind Dublin Jerome (128.925), Hilliard Bradley (127.575), Big Walnut (125.1) and Central Crossing (119), and ahead of Mount Vernon (102.975) and Franklin Heights (27.5).
Chickerella finished eighth on uneven bars (6.75) and placed ninth on both vault (8.1) and floor exercise (8.375).
The Pioneers went 2-3 in their OCC-Capital dual meets a year ago and finished fourth in the overall league standings with 12 points, behind Jerome (24, 5-0), Bradley (20, 4-1) and Big Walnut (16, 2-2).
Orange then finished 15th (123.175) in the district meet at Worthington Kilbourne, well behind the three state-qualifiers in Grove City (140.075), Dublin Coffman (139.375) and Thomas Worthington (137.45).
The top nine individuals in each district event, including the all-around, advanced to the state meet at Bradley. The Pioneers did not have any state qualifiers.
"This is a young team and it will be a rebuilding season, so our goal is to improve, stay healthy and build a strong team for the next few years," Hedrick said.
Patriots aiming for another strong season
Under the direction of 10th-year coach Misty Lloyd-Matthews, Liberty opened Dec. 15 by placing third (122.7) in the nine-team Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Davidson behind Upper Arlington (128) and Hilliard Darby (123.4).
Returning to lead the Patriots are senior captains Taylor Harrison and Lauren Uttam, junior Claire Voisard and sophomores Sophie D'Amico and Alena Southwick.
Rounding out the roster are senior Jordan Salvator, juniors Lydia Edwards, Maddie Rosenberry and Skylar Sible, sophomores Megan Crognale and Kenedi Harrison and freshmen Katherine Faircloth and Rachel Rutan.
"We've added two new girls, Rachel and Katherine, who are going to help make us stronger," Taylor Harrison said. "Katherine used to do club gymnastics and she's very good. They've both been showing amazing skills."
The Patriots are looking to improve on last season's finishes in the OCC-Central and district meets despite the loss of 2012 graduate and three-time state-qualifier Jacklyn Hayes.
Last season, Liberty finished second (126.95) in the league meet, behind Kilbourne (134.75) and ahead of Delaware (116.075), Davidson (111.325), Westland (92.75) and Dublin Scioto (83.95).
Hayes was first on balance beam (9.0) and floor (9.125), fourth on vault (8.3) and the all-around (33.25) and eighth on bars (6.825).
Voisard placed fourth on bars (7.75) and was eighth in the all-around (31.625), and Southwick was fifth on floor (8.75).
The Patriots finished second (20, 4-1) in the overall OCC-Central standings, behind Kilbourne (24, 5-0) and ahead of Davidson (14, 3-2), Delaware (14, 2-3), Scioto (6, 1-4) and Westland (6, 0-5).
Liberty finished 10th (129.2) at district, as Hayes won beam (9.3) and tied for fourth on bars (8.65) to advance to state in both events.
At state, Hayes placed fourth (9.175) on beam and tied for 32nd (8.4) on bars.
"I think we have a good chance of winning the OCC because we've been close in the past," Taylor Harrison said. "Worthington Kilbourne should be our best competition, but we're getting stronger each year.
"We look really good this season and we can tell that we're going to have a great season by how hard everyone is working in practice. We want to get to the state tournament and do well there."
Braves looking to overcome injuries
Under the direction of 12th-year coach Lloyd-Matthews, Olentangy opened Dec. 14 by defeating DeSales 127.8-120.7 in a dual meet.
Two of the Braves' top returnees, juniors Bridgette Boyle (arm) and Colleen McHugh (back), are expected to miss most or all of this season because of injuries.
Returning to lead Olentangy are juniors McKenna Basore and Anna Tantari and sophomores Michaela Shockcor, Lexie Spence and Felicia Stump.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Jessica Camacho and Karmen Wells, junior Katy Rodriguez, sophomores Jessica Davis, Gabbi Dodd, Victoria Grimm, Andi Hogsett and Danah Reda and freshmen Taylor Brown, Amanda Foy, Christina Mall, Tara Manz and Emma Morgan.
"We're not as strong as last year's team because some of our best girls are hurt," Basore said. "But Felicia Stump has improved a lot and most of us have improved since last year. And we have some new girls who will help our scores a lot in Emma Morgan and Amanda Foy."
Last season, Olentangy finished third (135.125) in the OCC-Ohio meet, behind Coffman (136.475) and Grove City (136.225) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (131.2), Upper Arlington (125.875) and Darby (116.075).
McHugh led the Braves by placing first in the all-around (36.2), bars (9.025) and vault (9.375) and finishing second on beam (8.675) and floor (9.125).
Olentangy finished second (19, 4-1) in the overall league standings, behind Coffman (24, 5-0) and ahead of Grove City (17, 3-2), Thomas Worthington (13, 3-2), UA (8, 1-4) and Darby (4, 0-5).
The Braves finished fourth (137.225) at district, finishing one spot shy of qualifying for state for the first time as a team.
Boyle placed second in the all-around (35.5) and third on floor (9.05). McHugh won vault (9.45), was third on floor (9.05) and tied for third in the all-around (35.425).
At state, McHugh tied for 16th on vault (9.1), finished 21st on floor (9.05), 23rd in the all-around (35.15) and 26th on bars (8.6). Boyle finished 31st on floor (8.7), 32nd on vault (8.7) and 35th in the all-around (33.725).
"Our first goals are to make everyone feel like a part of the team and to improve," Basore said. "Our biggest goal is to make it to state because we were so close last year."