Emily Jones and Mary Kate Keethler of the Upper Arlington High School gymnastics team swear they didn't pinch themselves as they competed with their teammates in the state team meet Feb. 28 at Hilliard Bradley.
"No. Not really," said Keethler, a junior. "We were back here (in the warm-up area) dancing and listening to music. We were just having fun."
State was old hat to Jones, a three-time individual qualifier, and Keethler, an individual qualifier as a freshman and sophomore. But it was a new experience for their teammates, as UA qualified for state as a team for the first time since 2003.
On the strength of their floor exercise and balance beam performances, the Golden Bears amassed 135.875 points and finished ninth of 12 teams, behind champion Brecksville-Broadview Heights (144.625). The state title was the Bees' 11th consecutive, 13th in 15 years and 14th overall.
UA finished fifth on floor (35.4) and sixth on beam (34.525). Senior Becca Jaskot led the team on floor with an 8.975, followed by Jones (8.9), Keethler (8.825) and sophomore Anna Tzagournis (8.7). Jaskot and Jones each scored 8.85 to lead the way on beam, just ahead of Keethler (8.55).
The Bears finished 11th on both vault (33) and uneven bars (32.95).
"We made all our beam routines, and that was a big deal. They've been falling pretty much every meet, and we made it," said coach Holly Hutton, who took over the program after Alexis Schmidt resigned, eight days before the season-opening Hilliard Invitational on Dec. 14.
"We were pretty consistent. I think they were a little nervous for some stuff and the judges were judging really hard. It was still good. They did the best floor routines I've seen them do. It wasn't their best scores on floor, but to me those were their best routines. They were very pretty."
In the individual state meet March 1 at Bradley, Jaskot placed sixth (9.325) on floor and Jones tied for 18th on bars (8.75). There were 36 competitors in both events.
"We came in here knowing we had the focus, but we were here to have fun," Jones said. "We also knew we could stay focused and do our best. We have nowhere else to go after this. We just had to take care of ourselves."
UA started the season by winning the 12-team Hilliard Invitational, scoring 132.575 points ahead of runner-up Grove City (132.025).
The Bears went 4-1 in OCC-Ohio Division duals, finishing second behind champion Dublin Coffman (5-0) and ahead of Grove City (3-2), Olentangy (2-3), Hilliard Darby (1-4) and Thomas Worthington (0-5).
UA finished third (136.8) in the OCC-Ohio meet Feb. 8 at Darby behind Coffman (143.425) and Grove City (137.75), as Jones placed second on floor (9.175), fourth on bars (9.0) and fifth on vault (8.9) and finished third in the all-around (35.775).
The Bears finished second in the overall league standings -- a combination of league duals and the league meet -- with 20 points, behind Coffman (24) and ahead of Grove City (18), Olentangy (12), Darby (6) and Thomas (6).
In the district meet Feb. 22, UA placed third (137.7) behind Coffman (143.85) and host Worthington Kilbourne (141.025) as 26 teams scored. The Bears edged fourth-place Grove City (136.325) for the final state berth.
"At district, we were all crying," Hutton said. "It was just about the greatest moment, being able to honor the school like that. And this hopefully won't be the last time we're (at state). We have some really good girls coming up in the next few years who will be a good addition to the team."