The Delaware Hayes High School gymnastics team may be vaulting to greater success this season as it has more depth than in recent years.
"All of our returning girls are looking stronger than where they were at the end of last season," fourth-year coach Heather Besselman said. "Most of the team is now comprised of girls who compete year-round. The dynamics this year, both mentally and physically, with the group will show everyone a different team, I believe."
Elise Mays is the Pacers' lone senior. Last season in the district meet, she finished 24th (8.25) on vault, 29th (8.625) on floor exercise and 32nd (31.975) of 93 competitors in the all-around.
"Elise is our team captain and she's a hard worker who has really come along these past few seasons," Besselman said. "This team just has more depth this year than it has had in a while. We've got some strong freshmen coming in who were on the school team in seventh and eighth grade, so they have a good foundation."
The Pacers return four others who were in the district lineup a year ago in juniors Chelsey Co, Caitie Lipps and Elizabeth White and sophomore Jeorgia Turturice.
Also on the team are juniors Malia Britton and Payje Wilson and freshmen Morgan Johns, Julia Mayer and Rachel White.
"Watch out for Rachel White to make a strong impression in the all-around competition," Besselman said.
At district, Co had the team's highest finish on balance beam (46th, 8.15) and Elizabeth White led the team on uneven bars (62nd, 7.35).
The Pacers open Saturday, Dec. 22, at Washington Court House.
"We would like to start the season with a 130 (team score), which would be about five points higher than where we finished last year," Besselman said. "As a team, I would like to see them place top three in the (OCC-Cardinal Division meet). Our ultimate goal is to finish in the top six at district as a team."
Bowling teams working on lineups
The girls and boys bowling teams both have returned four athletes from their postseason lineups last season, but coach Darin Halstead has had difficulty settling on his lineups early this season.
"On each team, the final three or four spots of the seven in a varsity match haven't been solidified yet," said Halstead, who is in his ninth season coaching the girls team and eighth season coaching the boys squad. "Some of the returnees have struggled with consistency and I'm not sure what to expect with the young, inexperienced kids yet because they've been inconsistent as well."
The returnees for the girls team are seniors McKenzie Knodell, Kelsey Rohrer and Alyssa Williams and junior McKenzie Cooke.
Rohrer represented the Pacers in the Division I state tournament last season, placing 55th of 104 competitors with a 521 series (189-162-170) at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
"Kelsey averaged 153 during the regular season last year, but really finished the season strong and we're looking for her to have a good year this year," Halstead said. "Alyssa started the year with a couple of big games, but also struggled a couple of games. She has done a good job keeping her mind in the right place to work through the adversity.
"McKenzie Cooke participated in youth leagues throughout the summer and you can see the consistency and improvement in her game."
Delaware lost its first two matches, falling to Buckeye Valley 1,895-1,782 on Dec. 3 and Big Walnut 2,065-2,018 on Dec. 6. Both matches were at Colony Lanes.
Senior Laiha Slayton also was on the roster last season for the Pacers, who are seeking their fourth consecutive OCC-Cardinal title.
Rounding out the team are seniors Kelly Kostalas and Fredericka Shanks, juniors Jami Deel and Aleisa Tobin, sophomores Electra Holt, Naomi Russell and Grace Straughn and freshmen Lydia Bendele, Hannah Halstead and Grace McIllwain.
Through two matches, Cooke had a team-best 163.8 average. Halstead, the coach's daughter, was next with a 162.3 average, followed by Williams (160.5), Rohrer (151.5) and Knodell (149).
The boys team has four returnees in seniors Shaun Bendele and Dillon Murfield and sophomores Talon Coffee and Mark Copley.
"Dillon works hard and when he is hitting, he has a lot of confidence," coach Halstead said. "He needs to concentrate and focus on covering spares, not just throwing strikes. Shaun has thrown many good games and will continue to work on how to move or what to change when things are not going to his expectations."
Also on the team are seniors Justin Hoffman and Heath Tucker, juniors Isaiah Ayers-Knapp and Reuben Cook, sophomores Gabe Cochran, Brody Crowder, Kyle Kelly and Jacob VanGundy and freshmen Bobby Brown, Ian James and Joey Matthews.
The Pacers, who won the OCC-Cardinal title for the second time in three seasons a year ago, beat Buckeye Valley 1,947-1,723 in their opening match before losing to Big Walnut 2,065-1,980.
Through two matches, Murfield had a team-best 206.5 average, followed by Tucker (165.3), Coffee (157.7), Hoffman (154) and Copley (151.5).
"We have five to seven boys who are fighting to make varsity positions," coach Halstead said. "We'll have a couple throw a great game and fall apart the next game. They are all working hard to address the inconsistency."
Dec. 3 -- Buckeye Valley at Colony Lanes
*Dec. 6 -- Big Walnut at Colony Lanes
*Dec. 12 -- Olentangy Orange at Colony Lanes
*Dec. 13 -- Newark at Park Lanes
*Dec. 17 -- Olentangy Berlin at Delaware Lanes
*Dec. 21 -- Westerville South at Colony Lanes
*Jan. 9 -- Hilliard Bradley at Colony Lanes
*Jan. 11 -- Marysville at Marysville Lanes
*Jan. 15 -- Westerville North at Colony Lanes
*Jan. 16 -- New Albany at Gahanna Lanes
*Jan. 18 -- Hilliard Darby at Colony Lanes
*Jan. 22 -- Westerville Central at Colony Lanes
*Jan. 24 -- Worthington Kilbourne at Capri Lanes
*Jan. 26 -- Newark at Park Lanes
*Jan. 28 -- Olentangy at Colony Lanes
*Jan. 29 -- Grandview at Colony Lanes
*Feb. 1 -- Groveport at Colony Lanes
*Feb. 5 -- Olentangy Liberty at Sawmill Lanes
*Feb. 7 -- Thomas Worthington at Capri Lanes
Dec. 22 -- at Washington Court House
Jan. 10 -- at *Thomas Worthington with *Worthington Kilbourne and Buckeye Valley
Jan. 19 -- Westerville Central Warhawk Invitational at Worthington Youth Boosters
Jan. 29 -- at Dublin Coffman with *Dublin Jerome and *Dublin Scioto,
Feb. 4 -- at Hilliard Davidson with *Hilliard Bradley, *Hilliard Darby and *Olentangy Berlin
Feb. 9 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at TBA
Below are the coming schedules for the Delaware Hayes boys basketball, girls basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 17 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington
*Dec. 21 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*Dec. 17 -- At Thomas Worthington
*Dec. 21 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 21 -- Delaware County Classic Relays at Ohio Wesleyan
Dec. 22 -- Dublin Jerome at Dublin Recreation Center
*Dec. 20 -- At Dublin Scioto