Upper Arlington News

Gymnastics

Bears coach wants focus on 'little' details

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Becca Jaskot of the Upper Arlington High School gymnastics team hopes to end her career as it began -- with a trip to the state meet.

But the senior is keenly aware that something seemingly small, such as a toe that isn't pointed or having the wrong stance, could be the difference between an average season and one not seen in the program in a decade.

First-year coach Holly Hutton's philosophy is based on such attention to detail, and Jaskot thinks it's why UA has recorded a tournament championship, placed third in the McGee Invitational and has three other meet victories entering the OCC-Ohio Division meet Saturday, Feb. 8, at Hilliard Darby.

"Holly is great at technical stuff and she's big on form. Those are the pinpoint things that, if we don't do them, will keep us from getting bigger scores," Jaskot said. "She'll say little things at practice, mentioning things we might not even be thinking about."

UA began the season Dec. 14 by winning the 12-team Hilliard Invitational, scoring 132.575 points to edge runner-up Grove City (132.025). Six days later, the Golden Bears earned another close victory, scoring 131.85 points to finish ahead of runner-up Hilliard Bradley (131.175) in a six-team event.

In the 10-team McGee Invitational on Jan. 18, UA scored 132.675 points to finish behind Mentor (141.35) and host Dublin Coffman (137.775). Emily Jones tied Thomas Worthington's Leah Carloni for second in the all-around with a 9.025.

"Especially at big meets, such as Hilliard, people win not by big skills but with clean skills, like pointed toes, straight legs, just being confident and things like that," said Hutton, who took over as coach Dec. 6 after Alexis Schmidt resigned. "If you do easy skills pretty, you're going to get a higher score than someone who does hard skills ugly."

Hutton said she largely was laid back throughout the first month of the season, changing her approach only when prompted by members of the team.

"They'd tell me I was being too nice, that I needed to be tougher," Hutton said. "Lately, I've been more comfortable and probably been harder on them. Maybe I've been yelling a little bit more. They trust me a lot more to correct them a lot harder than I was before."

Jones and Mary Kate Keethler, both juniors and two-time individual state qualifiers, are the team's captains.

Jaskot, who finished 26th on balance beam at state as a freshman and was OCC-Ohio champion on uneven bars and in the all-around that same season, is the team's only senior. She did not compete with the Bears as a sophomore or junior.

In reaching state three years ago, Jaskot became the Bears' first individual state qualifier since 2007.

UA has not advanced to state as a team since 2003. It also is seeking its first OCC title since 2004, when it won the last of three consecutive league championships and its ninth title in 12 years.

"Every single meet, even the judges will mention that it's time for us to put a new date up there," Jaskot said, pointing to a banner in UA's freshman gym -- where home meets take place -- that lists program championships.

Last season, UA tied Olentangy for third (131.7) in the OCC-Ohio, behind Coffman (141.2) and Thomas (134.8) and ahead of Darby (123.85) and Grove City (108.5), with Keethler winning vault (9.2).

The Bears went 2-3 in league duals and finished fourth in the overall league standings a year ago with 13 points, behind Coffman (24, 5-0), Thomas (20, 4-1) and Olentangy (15, 3-2) and ahead of Grove City (6, 1-4) and Darby (6, 0-5).

UA is 3-1 against OCC-Ohio opponents this season. It picked up two league wins Jan. 31 when it scored a 135.375 in a quad meet to finish ahead of Olentangy (131.7) and Thomas (122.65). Also competing in the meet was Olentangy Liberty (126.35).

The Bears defeated Darby in a six-team meet Dec. 20 but lost to Coffman 138.7 to 131.625 in a dual Jan. 13. They will compete against Grove City as part of a tri-meet with Dresden Tri-Valley on Monday, Feb. 10.

"We haven't exactly had a full, solid meet yet," Jones said. "We haven't shown our potential. I agree that we don't know exactly what talent we have, but even in our off meets, we will still place well as a team. We might be really good in three events but not in another. When we hit 4-for-4 as a team, we'll be up there with the Dublins and all of (the top programs)."

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