Only six athletes joined the Olentangy Liberty High School gymnastics team this season compared to 13 last year.
Senior captain Alena Southwick said having fewer competitors on her squad hasn't necessarily been a negative.
The Patriots opened Dec. 13 by scoring 121.925 points to win a tri-meet ahead of OCC-Central Division opponents Delaware (113.2) and Westland (94).
"We're a lot smaller this season, but we're a lot stronger because each of us is getting to spend more time with our coaches," Southwick said. "All of us have learned more skills and those little things that we've learned have made a difference. We kind of surprised ourselves with how well we did in our first meet."
Also serving as captains are seniors Lydia Edwards, Skylar Sible and Claire Voisard, while juniors Sophie D'Amico and Katherine Faircloth complete the roster.
In the opener, Faircloth placed first on uneven bars (8.0), balance beam (8.1), floor exercise (8.65) and in the all-around (32.9), and Southwick was first on vault (8.25).
As Liberty's lone representative in the individual state meet last season, Faircloth finished 24th on beam (8.475) as 36 competed in the event.
Southwick said the Patriots are looking to top what they accomplished last season, when they went 4-1 in the OCC-Central but tied Hilliard Davidson (3-2) for second with 18 points. Worthington Kilbourne (24, 5-0) won the league title.
Liberty then finished 10th (130.475) in the 24-team district meet behind state-qualifiers Kilbourne (140.625), Dublin Coffman (138.925) and Thomas Worthington (136.125) as Faircloth placed sixth on beam (9.0).
"Winning OCC would be exciting for us," Southwick said. "Katherine made state on beam last year, so I'm sure it's on her mind to get back there again. I've worked hard to improve my floor routine, so I'd like to go to state in that event."
Olentangy looking to exceed last season
Olentangy opened Dec. 14 by placing sixth (128.625) in the 12-team Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Darby behind champion Upper Arlington (132.575).
Returning to lead the Braves is sophomore Emma Morgan, who scored an 8.625 on floor to tie for 29th of 36 competitors in the individual state meet last season.
Other key members of the team include seniors McKenna Basore, Kasia Placek and Anna Tantari, juniors Jessica Davis, Gabbi Dodd, Kenedi Harrison, Michaela Shockcor and Lexie Spence and sophomore Taylor Brown.
In the Hilliard Invitational, Morgan tied for seventh on floor (8.5), ninth on beam (8.35) and 10th on vault (8.35). She also was eighth on bars (8.0) and ninth in the all-around (33.2).
Tantari was 10th on bars (7.85), and Spence tied for 10th on vault (8.35) and was 10th on floor (8.35).
"We're really like a big family where everyone contributes in different ways and we're always there for each other," Spence said. "Emma always does really well, but everyone on our team is strong in different events and contributes to our scoring in different ways."
With an extra year of experience, Spence believes the Braves are ready to challenge for the OCC-Ohio title and a berth in the team state meet.
The Braves finished third (15, 3-2) in the league last season behind Coffman (24, 5-0) and Thomas (20, 4-1).
Olentangy then placed fifth (132.85) at district, as Morgan placed eighth (8.85) on floor.
"Obviously, we're shooting to do better than we did last year because we're more experienced this year," Spence said. "We were close to making it to state as a team last year and I'm hoping we've improved enough to make it this year."
Large Orange squad seeking improvement
Orange opened Dec. 11 by placing third (121.5) in a tri-meet behind OCC-Capital opponent Westerville Central (127.9) and Buckeye Valley (124.35).
The Pioneers' roster features seniors Danielle Chickerella, Taylor Pierce, Hannah Reeves and Lauren Richards, juniors Allison Burt, Michelle Dake, Sydney Eha, Kaylin Muren, Maddi Stamper, Julia Vogel and Taylor Zollner, sophomores Natalie Herning and Claire Morgan and freshmen Eleanor Clifton, Emily Davis and Emily Reeves.
"I have 16 girls on the team this year, almost double (what we had) last year," coach Jen Hedrick said. "We are excited for a big team with new potential. I have four new girls coming to me with gymnastics experience (in) Eleanor, Hannah, Lauren and Emily (Davis). I also have many new girls with very little experience, but they bring a lot of excitement and enthusiasm."
Hedrick is confident the Pioneers can top what they accomplished last season, when they went 4-1 in the OCC-Capital and tied Dublin Jerome (3-2) for second with 18 points, behind Hilliard Bradley (24, 5-0).
Orange finished 15th (118.9) at district and had no state qualifiers.
"I am extremely happy with our score for the first meet," Hedrick said. "We have room for improvement, but have the potential and ability to score well. (I'm) looking forward to a great season."
Dec. 13 -- at Delaware* with Westland*
Jan. 10 -- at Hilliard Darby
Jan. 20 -- vs. Big Walnut, Dresden Tri-Valley and Dublin Scioto*
Jan. 25 -- Wolfpack Invitational at Worthington Kilbourne
Jan. 29 -- at Worthington Kilbourne* with Hilliard Davidson*
Feb. 6 -- Beauty and the Beast Invitational at Orange
Feb. 8 -- OCC-Central meet at Hilliard Darby
Dec. 14 -- Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Darby
Dec. 20 -- vs. Grove City*
Jan. 7 -- at Dublin Coffman* with Dublin Jerome and Marysville
Jan. 10 -- at Hilliard Darby*
Jan. 18 -- McGee Invitational at Dublin Coffman
Jan. 31 -- vs. Thomas Worthington*, Buckeye Valley and Upper Arlington*
Feb. 6 -- Beauty and the Beast Invitational at Orange
Feb. 8 -- OCC-Ohio meet at Hilliard Darby
Dec. 11 -- vs. Buckeye Valley and Westerville Central*
Dec. 13 -- at Marysville*
Dec. 21 -- at Washington Court House Miami Trace
Jan. 3 -- vs. Central Crossing*, Franklin Heights* and Westland
Jan. 13 -- at Worthington Kilbourne with Hilliard Bradley* and Hilliard Davidson
Feb. 1 -- vs. Big Walnut* and Dublin Jerome*
Feb. 6 -- Beauty and the Beast Invitational at home
Feb. 8 -- OCC-Capital meet at Hilliard Darby
Feb. 11 -- at Thomas Worthington with Delaware, Dublin Scioto and Westerville Central