With nearly half its roster comprised of athletes who are new to the sport, the Upper Arlington High School gymnastics team has focused more on learning basic skills this season.

With nearly half its roster comprised of athletes who are new to the sport, the Upper Arlington High School gymnastics team has focused more on learning basic skills this season.

There has been an adjustment period for a pair of newcomers to the program who have extensive club backgrounds, too.

According to freshman Emily Jones, who along with classmate Mary Kate Keethler previously competed for Universal Gymnasts, there has been much to enjoy about her first prep season and the program that first-year coach Abigail Schmidt is attempting to build.

"We had a night (during the holiday break) where we had a Christmas party together, and we also watched a video of our coach competing," Jones said. "Every practice, it's easier to talk to my teammates. It helps that me and Mary Kate aren't as stressed as we were when we competed in club. I think the season has been going pretty well so far. We have a new coach, so the system has kind of been changing. We're still improving."

Both Jones and Keethler competed at Level 8 in club, and Jones trained some in Level 9 before both left club.

The duo got a dose of high-level competition when the Bears competed Jan. 14 in the McGee Invitational at Dublin Coffman. Brecksville-Broadview Heights, which has won eight consecutive state championships, was first (141.125). UA finished eighth of 10 teams with a 125.125.

On Dec. 10, Jones won the all-around competition with a 33.45 as the Bears scored 120.25 to beat Washington Court House Miami Trace (105.45) and Washington Court House (98.45). In the McGee Invitational, she recorded an 8.95 score on floor exercise, marking her season-best score in the event through three meets.

The Bears will compete Feb. 3 against host Hilliard Davidson, Delaware and Hilliard Darby before competing in the OCC-Ohio Division meet Feb. 11 at Coffman.

A year ago, UA went 0-5 in league duals and finished last in the overall league standings with four points, behind Thomas Worthington (5-0, 24), Hilliard Darby (4-1, 18), Olentangy (3-2, 18), Coffman (2-3, 14) and Grove City (1-4, 8).

"Things are going very well," Schmidt said. "We had our first real trial (in the McGee Invitational), because unlike most of the teams there, we don't have a lot of club gymnasts. We're trying to not focus on so much the routines but working on our skills, whereas other teams are working more on repetition."

While Jones and Keethler have been the team's top scorers, Somer Aleshire, Casey Beam and Sierra Schmitt also have been key contributors, according to Schmidt.

The skill set that Jones and Keethler have provided is something that Schmidt believes has been beneficial to the other newcomers to the program.

"Their teaching has been more from just showing," Schmidt said. "I don't think people realize how much a gymnast learns from watching and learning from just their work ethic. They set the standard. Mary Kate and Emily give the team a new dynamic. It's fun because everybody is getting better and working hard.

"We have a lot of growing to do, but that's an excellent place to be in. This is all very new to some of them."