Olentangy High School gymnasts couldn't contain their excitement for senior Stephanie Miller's floor exercise routine Dec. 8.
Miller had been trying to perfect a Rudi, a forward somersault that features a 1 1/2 twist. She didn't disappoint to end the three-hour tri-meet against Liberty and Washington Court House Miami Trace at Central Ohio Gymnastics and Cheerleading, nailing the move to score 9.1 points and help lead the Braves to 139.15 points and a win over the Patriots (125.15) and Panthers (121.95).
According to Miller, her coach and a teammate, that won't be the only time a floor routine excites the Braves this season as they seek a third consecutive appearance in the team state meet.
"We have a lot of very good girls on floor with awesome skills, and we're still improving," Miller said, singling out teammates Olivia Boone and Wen Holmes. "The Rudi is difficult, but that's helped us get some points. We're excited for this year. We have a lot of new girls who are doing great, and the girls who are back have only gotten better."
Miller, classmates Lexi Jesenovec and Ellie Morgan and sophomores Boone and Megan Morgan are among the returnees for Olentangy, which scored 135.725 points at state last year to finish seventh of 12 teams behind powerhouse Brecksville-Broadview Heights (147.15), which will seek its 15th consecutive state championship this year.
Boone, Jesenovec and Megan Morgan were individual state qualifiers a year ago. Jesenovec was 19th on balance beam, Boone was 21st on vault and 30th on floor and Megan Morgan was 27th on uneven bars.
"What this team looks like so far, it reminds me of last year," Ellie Morgan said. "That's what this feels like. I think there's a little less pressure even though we want to get back to state. Having this much talent makes things so much easier."
Olentangy swept the four event titles and all-around championship Dec. 8. Other winners were Holmes on vault (9.15), sophomore Kennedy Jesenovec on beam (8.9), Megan Morgan on bars (8.6) and Boone in all-around (33.9).
"We didn't even hit on floor at all (Dec. 8) but we can be strong anywhere," 17th-year coach Misty Lloyd-Matthews said.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Megan Baldwin, Lauren Farver and Claire Harrington, juniors Cassie Fillman, Mia McCloskey and Madeline Vouis, sophomores Anna Barstow and Ellie McIntyre and freshmen Kaitlyn Fetter, Caroline Hise and Madeline Nietfeld.
Olentangy's season resumes Jan. 3 at OCC-Buckeye Division foe Westerville Central.
The Braves, whose win over the Patriots counted in the league standings, went 4-0 with 20 points in OCC-Buckeye duals last year, ahead of runner-up Big Walnut (16, 3-1), and won the league meet with 135.2 points, ahead of the Golden Eagles (127.325).
Ellie Morgan did not discount the importance of repeating as league champions, but said the Braves already are thinking about state.
"Last year, we were looking to beat ninth (place, Olentangy's finish at state in 2015), and this year we are looking to beat seventh. We just want to get better and better every year," she said.
Lloyd-Matthews told her team that isn't good enough.
"I always have said if you don't shoot for as far as you can go, you'll never be able to reach it," she said. "We'll be happy with whatever we get at state if we give everything we have, but I want them to get after the top three. I want them to believe that they can. I think they can."
Bowling teams setting lofty goals
Last year was historic for the bowling program as it advanced a competitor to the state tournament for the first time, and coach Jim Brehm said he already sees indicators that this season could be even better.
Having returned its entire lineup except Division I state qualifier Stephanie Shurman, the girls team is 4-0 overall. All of the matches counted in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A and OCC-Buckeye standings.
Senior Erika Brehm is averaging 181.3 to lead a tight pack that also includes junior Addison Starr (178.5) and seniors Olivia Hupp (161.4) and Sydney Perry (160.2).
Coach Brehm, who is in his seventh season, said a 2,131-2,101 win over Westerville Central on Dec. 13 at Delaware Lanes was a key early victory.
"We bowl well at home and Central is always strong," Brehm said. "The girls are bowling like I expect them to. We (tied for) second in the (OCC-Buckeye and finished third in the COHSBC-North) last year and we're excited to take that next step. Erika, Addison and Olivia are all year-round bowlers and that shows. It's an exciting time in our program right now."
The girls' first two wins came at their home facility, 2,123-1,594 over New Albany on Dec. 4 and 1,940-1,924 over defending OCC-Buckeye champion Westerville South on Dec. 8, before a 1,752-1,244 win over Liberty on Dec. 14 at Sawmill Lanes.
Olentangy was 15-3 overall a year ago as well as 13-2 in the COHSBC-North behind Gahanna (14-0) and 5-2 in the OCC-Buckeye, tied with Central behind South (6-1).
Shurman, the first Olentangy bowler to make state, finished 26th of 94 individuals.
Rounding out the girls roster are seniors Abby Chubb, Adrienne Moorman and Anna Reardon.
Led by several experienced returnees, the boys team is closing in on its win total of a year ago. They are 2-2 overall and in both leagues after going 3-15 overall last year, 3-12 in the COHSBC-North to finish 14th behind co-champions Central and South (both 14-1) and 1-6 in the OCC-Buckeye to finish seventh behind champion Central (7-0).
The boys opened with a 2,118-1,995 win over New Albany and beat South 2,263-2,145 before losing to Central 2,778-2,309 and Liberty 2,222-1,869.
Juniors Tyler McMaster (190.6 average), Michael Lamar (186.1) and Nick Madaris (176.9) lead a roster that also includes senior Chris Brown, juniors Josh Gernert, Ahmed Mohiuddin and Jacob Rhinehart and sophomore Eli Cumbo.
Madaris is a transfer from Liberty who saw limited varsity action last year but had a high game of 218.
"Tyler and Michael have gotten a lot of work in and you can really tell," Brehm said. "They're bowling well. Last year was a rough year, but they've gotten a lot better. I'm happy with them so far."
Hockey team seeking consistency
After struggling in the first two weekends this month, the hockey team is trying to right its ship during a stretch in which it plays just two games in 19 days.
Olentangy is 4-5-0-1 overall and 1-5 in the Capital Hockey Conference, coming off a 6-1 loss to Springboro on Dec. 16. That was the Braves' first game since they snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over Dublin Coffman on Dec. 9, and their last contest until they take on New Albany on Friday, Dec. 22, at Chiller Easton.
Dakota Falk and Andrew Rogers share the team lead in goals with six. Landon Johnson has five, and Kyle Gavin and Alex Vandenbusche both have four.
Falk played in the AAA Blue Jackets organization until this year, and Johnson is a freshman.
Dec. 2 -- Girls: State Kickoff Tournament at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 4 -- New Albany at Delaware Lanes
*Dec. 8 -- Westerville South at Delaware Lanes
Dec. 9 -- Holiday Baker Marathon at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Dec. 13 -- Westerville Central at Delaware Lanes
*Dec. 14 -- Olentangy Liberty at Sawmill Lanes
*Dec. 21 -- Gahanna at Delaware Lanes
*Jan. 4 -- Marysville at Delaware Lanes
*Jan. 10 -- Delaware at Delaware Lanes
Jan. 13 -- Central District Preview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
Jan. 17 -- Lexington at Lex Lanes
*Jan. 19 -- Olentangy Orange at Delaware Lanes
*Jan. 26 -- London at Delaware Lanes
Jan. 27 -- Jaguar Baker Marathon at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl
Jan. 29 -- Whetstone at Sequoia Pro Bowl
*Jan. 30 -- Westerville North at Delaware Lanes
*Jan. 31 -- Beechcroft at Sequoia Pro Bowl
*Feb. 2 -- Big Walnut at Delaware Lanes
Feb. 6 -- Olentangy Liberty and Olentangy Orange at Capri Lanes
Feb. 11 -- OCC Challenge at Tiki Bowling Lanes
Dec. 8 -- *Olentangy Liberty and Washington Court House Miami Trace at Central Ohio Gymnastics and Cheerleading
*Jan. 3 -- at Westerville Central
Jan. 9 -- at Upper Arlington with Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Hilliard Davidson
Jan. 13 -- McGee Invitational at Dublin Coffman
Jan. 15 -- vs. *Big Walnut, Olentangy Liberty and *Olentangy Orange
Jan. 18 -- at Thomas Worthington with Olentangy Orange and Worthington Kilbourne
Jan. 27 -- Dawg House Challenge at Dresden Tri-Valley
Feb. 7 -- at Marysville
Feb. 10 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Hilliard Davidson
Feb. 15 -- Beauty and the Beast Invitational at Olentangy Orange
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 22 -- At Westerville Central
Dec. 27 -- Doylestown (Pa.) Central Bucks East in KSA Events Holiday Tournament at Walt Disney World
*Dec. 22 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Dec. 22 -- New Albany at Chiller Easton
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 21 -- Delaware County Classic at Ohio Wesleyan
Dec. 27-28 -- Medina Invitational Tournament