Upper Arlington High School gymnasts long knew what parts of their competition floor to avoid during routines.

"A lot of the corners were broken off so you never knew whether you'd hit a spot on the floor that didn't let you bounce," senior Rachael Feinberg said. "We'd even see other teams sometimes pull up our floors and try to fix the dead spots, but there were so many that you couldn't get everything. It was always in the back of everybody's mind."

Video •Watch an interview with Upper Arlington gymnast Lindsey Spangler.

Thanks largely to the efforts of senior Lindsey Spangler, the Golden Bears don't have to figure things out anymore.

Spangler, a gymnast since elementary school and one of three team captains along with Feinberg and Zoe Rigsby, spearheaded the installation a new competition floor as her senior capstone project. The project, which is mandatory for all UA seniors and must be faculty-approved, calls for students to explore an area important to them while showcasing academic skills, ingenuity and engagement within the community.

"You just need to do something that helps you learn to do something you haven't done," Spangler said. "(The old floor) didn't give us as much bounce as we needed. It absorbed our impact and wasn't that great. Gymnastics has been a part of my life for a long time and it's a good way to give back to our team. We have needed new equipment for a while. This was the latest step in the process."

That process began last March, when Spangler contacted Midwest Gym Supply in Madison, Indiana, to learn the ins-and-outs of rebuilding the floor. The $3,400 cost helped make the project feasible, partly because it was roughly the same price the team paid for a new balance beam last year.

Midwest Gym Supply provided the hardware, which the team paid for through extra fundraising from working concessions at UA lacrosse games and selling donuts at Bears football games, as well as connecting Velcro.

The floor, which is made from Baltic birch plywood, is divided into 14 parts.

"Most plywoods have a filler material between the two outside layers, but Baltic birch is made with the same wood in every ply," Spangler said. "This makes it able to grip the screws and keep the springs in place for years of tumbling. The hardware and springs could pop out of a lower-quality wood."

Coach Erin May estimated that more than 50 people, including the entire team, worked more than eight hours Oct. 22 to build the floor. Among other tasks, the crew ripped the springs off the old floor and attached them to the new one.

"It's a lot easier to set up because the boards are lighter and they go together better. They are more stable," Feinberg said.

"Everyone has enjoyed the improvement. It's safer and more user-friendly for us to put out and put back," May said.

UA wraps up its regular season within the next week. The Bears will compete in the OCC-Central Division meet Saturday, Feb. 11, at Hilliard Bradley and have a quad meet Monday, Feb. 13, at Thomas Worthington that also includes Olentangy Orange and Washington Court House Miami Trace.

May and Spangler both cited beam and uneven bars as areas of improvement for the Bears, even as they figured floor exercise would be the team's strength.

"They've improved all year. Lindsey's enthusiasm (is an asset)," May said. "She stays upbeat and works with the rest of the girls. She keeps all the girls interested and aware."

But thanks in part to Spangler's forward thinking, the Bears don't have to be quite as aware of certain things as they used to be.

Girls basketball team
relying on defense

The girls basketball team had its two best defensive games of the season to end January, at least in terms of points allowed, and hoped that would translate into a strong finish.

The Bears gave up only 22 points in a 27-point win over Central Crossing on Jan. 27, and followed that up with a 46-27 win at Dublin Scioto on Jan. 31. UA was 13-7 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Central before playing Westland on Feb. 7, the first of two consecutive home games to end the regular season.

"We didn't let them into the lane. We boxed out and made our shots. Everything clicked," guard Macy Spielman said of the win over Scioto. "The whole season has been up and down, but we've come together the last few games and we (had) the chance to win 15 games (entering the week). Other people have stepped up. I am so grateful for my teammates, but when I haven't had my best games, Kileig h (Casey) and Sydney (Ward) have stepped up and scored. That's what wins games, scoring and defense."

Spielman averaged a team-best 16.1 points through 20 games, followed by Sarah Poling (8.2), Casey (6.8) and Ward (6.2).

According to Spielman, recent practices have featured dribbling and passing drills and an emphasis on committing fewer turnovers.

UA, which finishes the regular season Friday, Feb. 10, with a league game at home against Marysville, is seeded 16th of 47 teams in the Division I district tournament and will play host to 25th-seeded DeSales in the first round Feb. 18.

Wrestlers fall in
regional semifinal

The wrestling team's hopes for its first appearance in the Division I state team tournament ended Feb. 1, when it fell to Lancaster 49-21 in a Region 5 semifinal at Westerville North.

UA lost 10 of 14 weight classes to the Golden Gales in dropping only their second dual of the season. The Bears have a 14-2 overall record in duals entering an OCC-Central match Thursday, Feb. 9, at home against Dublin Coffman. UA is 2-1 in the OCC-Central with two matches remaining.

Winning against Lancaster were Alex Botello at heavyweight (forfeit), Henry Ledman at 145 pounds (9-4 decision over Dillon Strang), Slade Morley at 220 (pinned Derrick Bowman in 3 minutes, 50 seconds) and Mark Trifelos at 152 (pinned Hector Fiella in 1:18).

The Gales lost the regional final to North 43-28 later Feb. 1.

Athletes announce
college decisions

Twelve senior student-athletes announced their college decisions Feb. 1.

Jordan Bailey will play baseball and men's basketball at Charleston, Samantha Brown will play women's lacrosse at Mercer, Madeleine DeVoe will play women's soccer at the University of Chicago, Sara Hassell will play women's volleyball at Illinois Institute of Technology, Jack Hendrix will play baseball at Lincoln Trail, Alec Holden will play men's soccer at Ohio Dominican, Andrew Kibbe will swim at New York University, Madeleine McKenna will play women's volleyball at California University of Pennsylvania, Mason Myers will play football at Findlay, Parker Neri will swim at the University of Texas, Nathan Orlandini will play football at Valparaiso and Michael Smith will play football at Ohio Dominican.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave