Katie Cochran's role for the Big Walnut High School girls basketball team was well-defined last season.
Being 5-foot-11, she was needed to provide interior help for the Golden Eagles, who finished 15-9 a year ago.
Cochran's role has changed under first-year coach Jason Crawford, who is utilizing the senior's expanded capabilities.
"We were a very short team last year," Cochran said. "Abby Facemyer (5-11) was our only center, so I had to play on the inside more. Now that she's more experienced, I'm able to play more on the outside."
Cochran was averaging a team-high 14.4 points through five games. Big Walnut was 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing at New Albany on Dec. 15.
"She finishes really well around the rim with either hand," Crawford said. "She has a few go-to post moves. She can catch it on the wing and drive, and she obviously has an outside shot."
Cochran quickly drew the attention of opponents by scoring 26 points in the Golden Eagles' 50-33 victory over Marion Harding in the season opener Nov. 28. Through five games, she was shooting 67 percent from the field and had made three of four 3-point attempts.
Cochran scored 16 points to lead Big Walnut in a 49-47 overtime loss to Canal Winchester in an OCC-Capital game Dec. 8. However, the Golden Eagles missed 21 free-throw attempts in the contest.
"She came out of the gate strong," Crawford said. "Ever since, she's been seeing a lot of face-guarding and teams are throwing a lot of players at her. She's been finding ways to help the team and is still getting open without overdoing it. She's not taking shots that aren't best for the team."
Big Walnut's other leading scorers are junior guard Erin Boehm, last season's leading scorer, and sophomore guard Avery Schone. Both were averaging just under 10 points, according to Crawford.
Cochran is quick to point to her teammates who are providing the passing and screens that lead to open shots.
"This has been a fun year so far because I've been able to execute all over the place, and it's been fun doing that because I haven't been able to do it before," she said.
Cochran worked hard in the offseason, attending numerous camps and playing with an AAU team. She also worked on developing her skills with a private coach.
The extra work is paying off.
"She has aspirations of playing college basketball, and she put a ton of time in over the summer in trying to make herself a better player," Crawford said. "She has high goals for herself."
Dimitroff seeks return to state in gymnastics
Mary Dimitroff, a three-time state qualifier for the gymnastics team, has put the disappointing ending to last season behind her. A sprained ankle suffered days before the state meet kept the senior from competing in the all-around.
Dimitroff looked ready for a fresh start in Big Walnut's opening meet Dec. 9, as she won the all-around (34.7 points), vault (8.65), uneven bars (8.55) and balance beam (8.35) and placed second on floor exercise (8.75) to lead the Golden Eagles to a third-place finish (117.8) behind Worthington Kilbourne (127.8) and Olentangy Orange (119.2) and ahead of Delaware (112.05).
Big Walnut does not compete again until Jan. 3.
"I've been working on really getting higher-level skills this year, considering it's my senior year," said Dimitroff, who placed 35th on bars (7.5) and tied for 19th on vault (9.075) at state last season.
Dimitroff, who was Big Walnut's only state qualifier a year ago, was district runner-up on vault and won her second league championship in the all-around last season, when the Golden Eagles finished second (16 points, 3-1 record) in the OCC-Buckeye behind Olentangy (20, 4-0).
Also back is junior Kayla Hildebrand, who placed third on beam (8.35), fifth on bars (7.0) and in the all-around (31.3) and sixth on vault (7.95) in the opening meet.
Only two other gymnasts, sophomore Ekaterina Brammer and freshman Kayla Farley, competed in the opening meet, but others could compete later in the season, according to first-year coach Kaiden Wilson.
Wilson, who served as an assistant last season, replaced Misty Lloyd-Matthews, who stepped down after 10 seasons as coach.
"We were a little shaky," Wilson said of the opening meet. "I know especially on beam there were a few falls. But on floor and bars, (they) were competing in skills they've never done and I'm pleased with their performance."
Wilson said the group is determined to learn new routines and skills.
"They're bonding very well as a team," she said.
Wrestlers take fourth in Big Walnut Classic
Two members of the wrestling team won championships to help the Golden Eagles finish fourth of 16 teams in the Big Walnut Classic on Dec. 9.
Bailey Munday (138 pounds) and Josh Halbakken (170) won titles and Cole Porter (145) placed second for the Golden Eagles, who scored 126.5 points to finish behind Dublin Coffman (205.5), Thornville Sheridan (147.5) and Wadsworth (127).
Boys basketball team out to strong start
The boys basketball team was 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Capital before playing host to New Albany on Dec. 15.
The Golden Eagles, who won just four games last season, defeated visiting Hamilton Township 55-51 on Dec. 12 as Jordan Koebel scored a team-high 12 points, including eight in the third quarter. Brody Lawhun added 11 points, Jackson Podraza scored 10 and Nathan Montgomery scored nine.
Big Walnut outscored the Rangers 18-9 in the second quarter as Podraza scored eight points.
The Golden Eagles opened Nov. 30 with a 58-48 loss to visiting Watkins Memorial but rebounded the next day to beat Buckeye Valley 55-52 at home. They then opened league play Dec. 8 with a 56-50 victory over host Canal Winchester as Kegan Hienton had 13 points and Lawhun scored 12.
Dec. 9 -- at Delaware with Olentangy Orange and Worthington Kilbourne
Jan. 3 -- Westerville Central and Olentangy at Worthington Youth Boosters
Jan. 6 -- Wolfpack Invitational at Worthington Kilbourne
Jan. 12 -- Olentangy Liberty, Olentangy Orange and Worthington Christian at Central Ohio Gymnastics & Cheer
Jan. 15 -- Olentangy Invitational
Jan. 27 -- Dresden Tri-Valley Invitational
Feb. 7 -- at Marysville
Feb. 10 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at TBA
Feb. 13 -- at Hilliard Davidson with Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Olentangy Liberty and Olentangy Orange
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Dec. 19 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
*Dec. 21 -- At Newark
Dec. 19 -- At Olentangy Orange
*Dec. 21 -- Home vs. Newark
Dec. 22 -- At Johnstown
*Dec. 20 -- New Albany at Capri Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 21 -- Delaware Classic at Ohio Wesleyan
Dec. 22 -- Heath and Chillicothe at Licking County Family YMCA
Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Centennial