Moments before Emma Morgan was scheduled to compete in the floor exercise during the individual state gymnastics meet March 2 at Hilliard Bradley, the Olentangy High School freshman was shaken by her nerves.
Once Morgan stepped on the mat, she regained her sense of calm and scored an 8.625 to tie Buckeye Valley's Savannah Amato for 29th of 36 competitors.
"That's the most nervous I've ever felt before a meet," Morgan said. "As the person before me was doing floor, my throat got dry and I had a knot in my stomach. But that all went away when I started my routine and I had a lot of fun.
"I just came here for the experience since I'm only a freshman, but I hit my routine and had a good day. Floor is definitely my favorite event. The competition here is insane and it was an honor to compete with these girls."
Morgan's state appearance capped an injury-plagued season for the Braves.
Juniors Bridgette Boyle (back and shoulder) and Colleen McHugh (back), both of whom competed in the individual state meet as sophomores, missed the season because of injuries.
Sophomore Victoria Grimm sat out the season because of a broken ankle, junior Anna Tantari missed multiple meets with a broken toe and several Braves missed one or two meets because of illnesses.
Despite those setbacks, Olentangy tied Upper Arlington for third (131.7) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet Feb. 9 at Thomas Worthington behind Dublin Coffman (141.2) and Thomas (134.8) and ahead of Hilliard Darby (123.85) and Grove City (108.5).
The Braves finished third in the OCC-Ohio standings with 15 points and a 3-2 record, behind Coffman (24, 5-0) and Thomas (20, 4-1) and ahead of UA (13, 2-3), Grove City (6, 1-4) and Darby (6, 0-5).
Morgan led the way in the OCC-Ohio meet by placing third on floor (8.8), fourth on balance beam (9.025), eighth on both uneven bars (8.5) and the all-around (34.45) and 10th on vault (8.125).
Junior McKenna Basore was sixth on vault (8.3), eighth on floor (8.55), ninth on beam (8.35), 10th all-around (32.9) and 14th on bars (7.7).
Sophomore Lexi Spence was ninth on both vault (8.175) and floor (8.525), 10th on beam (8.3), 15th all-around (31.5) and 18th on bars (6.5).
Tantari finished ninth on bars (8.475), and sophomore Felicia Stump placed 11th on both vault (8.1) and beam (8.25).
Olentangy then scored 132.85 and placed fifth in the 24-team district meet Feb. 23 at Worthington Kilbourne behind state-qualifiers Kilbourne (140.625), Coffman (138.925) and Thomas (136.125).
The top three teams advanced to the state team meet March 1 at Bradley, and the top nine individuals in each event and the all-around qualified for the individual state meet.
Morgan advanced by placing eighth (8.85) on floor.
"Olentangy had to fight through a lot of injuries so it was amazing that this team did as well as it did," coach Misty Lloyd-Matthews said. "We would have done much better at OCC and district if we had everyone healthy, but we had a lot of strong underclassmen step up and we should be good next year."
Faircloth places 24th on beam at state
As Liberty's lone representative at state, sophomore Katherine Faircloth finished 24th on beam (8.475) as 36 competed in the event.
"It was very nerve-racking competing here, but it also was fun and a good experience," Faircloth said. "My routine went OK. I had a few bobbles, but I'm glad I was able to stay on the beam and not fall."
Liberty scored 125.525 and finished third in the OCC-Central meet Feb. 9 at Thomas behind Kilbourne (137.45) and Hilliard Davidson (127.225) and ahead of Delaware (111.25), Westland (101.525) and Dublin Scioto (89.25).
Kilbourne finished first in the OCC-Central standings with 24 points and a 5-0 record, capturing its fourth consecutive league title ahead of Liberty (18, 4-1), Davidson (18, 3-2), Delaware (12, 2-3), Westland (1-4) and Scioto (0-5).
Faircloth led the Patriots by placing second on both bars (8.475) and floor (8.8), fifth all-around (33.825) and sixth on both vault (8.25) and beam (8.3).
Senior Lauren Uttam was seventh on bars (7.6), beam (8.15) and all-around (31.95), eighth on floor (8.2) and ninth on vault (8.0).
Sophomore Sophie D'Amico was 10th all-around (28.9), 12th on floor (7.85), 13th on beam (7.05), 14th on vault (7.75) and 15th on bars (6.25). Junior Claire Voisard was eighth on beam (8.05), and 12th on both vault (7.8) and bars (8.75).
Liberty then finished 10th (130.475) at district, as Faircloth placed sixth on beam (9.0) to advance to state.
"Liberty went farther than most people would have anticipated and finished its season with its highest team score at district," Lloyd-Matthews said. "I think we'll do well next year because we're adding some good freshmen."
Pioneers finished third in league
Orange finished third (120.05) in the OCC-Capital meet Feb. 9 at Thomas behind Bradley (128.925) and Dublin Jerome (122.85) and ahead of Franklin Heights (107.525), Big Walnut (105.5) and Central Crossing (104.35).
The Pioneers (4-1) tied Jerome (3-2) for second in the final OCC-Capital standings with 18 points. They finished behind Bradley (24, 5-0) and ahead of Franklin Heights (10, 1-4), Central Crossing (8, 2-3) and Big Walnut (6, 0-5).
Freshman Natalie Heming led Orange in the league meet by placing fourth on bars (7.55), fifth on both vault (8.0) and floor (8.15) and sixth on both beam (7.8) and all-around (31.5).
Junior Danielle Chickerella won floor (8.55) and was fourth on vault (8.125), seventh on both beam (7.45) and all-around (31.125) and ninth on bars (7.0).
Sophomore Julia Vogel was 10th on beam (7.25), 11th on floor (7.7), 13th all-around (28.625), 14th on bars (6.3) and 16th on vault (7.375).
Orange finished 15th (118.9) at district and had no state qualifiers.