The Olentangy High School gymnastics team begins pursuit of its fourth consecutive state team meet berth this weekend, but the Braves talked little about the past three seasons as this one approached.

A handful of competitors are back from last year's team that finished fifth at state, the best performance in program history, and they expect that a group of promising underclassmen will be key if Olentangy is to have another long, productive season.

"We have some very good skills coming from our freshmen," senior Cassie Fillman said. "They have no fears. They do anything that is asked of them. They work really hard and they have big skills coming from club gymnastics."

The Braves return three other seniors in Wen Holmes, Mia McCloskey and Madeline Vouis as well as junior Megan Morgan, who tied for 30th on uneven bars at last year's state individual meet. Olentangy opens Saturday, Dec. 22, with a quad meet at Buckeye Gymnastics against Big Walnut, Olentangy Liberty and Olentangy Orange.

"The Braves' mentality is to try to keep growing and getting better and not settling," 18th-year coach Misty Lloyd-Matthews said. "There's a lot of potential here. We are super strong on floor (exercise) and (balance) beam. I'm optimistic and excited to see what's going to happen."

Olentangy lost two state individual qualifiers to graduation in Lexi Jesenovec and Stephanie Miller and lost a third, junior Olivia Boone, to Berlin.

Other returnees are juniors Anna Barstow and Ellie McIntyre.

According to Holmes, freshman Lillian Towles and Jaedyn Tucker have been particularly impressive so far.

"Jaedyn is very good at floor and beam. She can do every event and so can Lillian," Holmes said. "They're powerful and very talented."

Rounding out the roster are sophomores Kaitlyn Fetter and Caroline Hise and freshmen Olivia Hulshof, Montserrat Loyola and Olivia Murphy.

"There is so much being brought to the table that it's different from any other year," Vouis said. "It's been amazing so far and we haven't even started competing. When we start competing and get pushed harder, even more wonderful things are going to happen.

"We are becoming stronger on some events we've been weaker on in the past. We have a beautiful mix of floor routines. There's just a very wide variety of girls competing and their strengths (are comprised of) all different stuff."

Olentangy went 4-0 with 20 points in the OCC-Buckeye Division last season to finish first ahead of Orange (14, 3-1).

This weekend's competition against Big Walnut and Orange will count in the league standings.

Olentangy's only home meet this season will be Jan. 21 against Big Walnut, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Hilliard Davidson, Liberty and Upper Arlington.

Bowling teams off to strong starts

The boys and girls bowling teams both take 2-1 overall records into a Thursday, Dec. 20, match against Liberty at Sawmill Lanes, one eighth-year coach Jim Brehm expected to be key as the Braves enter the holiday break.

"I am happy with our start, but while I expect our kids to average around 200 (pins per game) at home, (the Liberty match) will be telling," Brehm said. "We are strong at home (Delaware Lanes). We have been ever since I've been with the team. We're going to be on the road for a lot of the second half of the season and that's where we'll have to perform well. If we can adjust well to other lanes, we'll be right in the thick of things."

While the boys team returns most of its top bowlers from last year in seniors Michael Lamar, Nick Madaris and Tyler McMaster, the girls brought back just one of their leaders from a season ago in senior Addison Starr.

Starr was averaging 197.6 through two matches. Olentangy is 2-0 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A and in the OCC-Buckeye.

The boys are 1-1 in both leagues. Lamar was averaging 226.7 before a Dec. 14 loss to Orange, ahead of McMaster (213.2), senior Noah Johnson (195.5), Madaris (185.9) and senior Ahmed Mohiuddin (183.8).

"Michael and Tyler are quite a one-two punch on the boys side," Brehm said. "Addison fits very well in that leadership role. She's a great person for the younger girls to learn from. She's like having another coach. She keeps me on my toes."

Last season, the girls team went 13-3 overall, 7-0 in the OCC-Buckeye and 11-1 in the COHSBC-A to finish second behind Gahanna (12-0), while the boys were 8-8 overall, 7-5 in the COHSBC-A and 4-3 in the OCC-Buckeye.

The girls opened this season with a 2,043-1,897 home loss to Lexington on Nov. 30 and defeated New Albany 1,818-1,670 on Dec. 3 at Delaware Lanes. The boys beat Lexington 2,502-2,548 and New Albany 2,384-1,971.

Rounding out the girls roster are senior Ana Oliverio, juniors Rahma Aden and Kristen Mullins, sophomore Lillian Hines and freshmen Caroline Chubb, Savannah Claar and Hannah Lamar.

Also on the boys team are seniors Josh Gernert and Jacob Rhinehart and sophomore Derek Ratha.

Marks surpasses 1,000-point milestone

Sean Marks of the boys basketball team became the program's fourth 1,000-point scorer Dec. 15, hitting a 3-pointer in the first quarter of a 68-57 win over host Parkersburg (West Virginia) South 68-57 in the third-place game of the Parkersburg South Holiday Tournament.

Marks, a senior guard and Ohio Dominican recruit, scored a game-high 30 points and has 1,027 points for his career. He is 144 points away from becoming the program's all-time leading scorer.

Rob Sanders scored 1,170 points from 1978-82.

Marks, who scored 24 points in a 70-62 loss to Scott Depot (West Virginia) Teays Valley Christian 70-62 on Dec. 14, is averaging 18.4 points.

Olentangy also got 14 points from Luke Riedel against South in improving to 3-2 overall. The Braves are 1-1 in the OCC-Buckeye entering a Friday, Dec. 21, home game against Westerville Central.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

BOWLING

Nov. 30 -- Lexington at Delaware Lanes

Dec. 1 -- Red and Blue Classic at HP Lanes

*Dec. 3 -- New Albany at Delaware Lanes

Dec. 7 -- Teays Valley at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl

*Dec. 14 -- Orange at Capri Lanes

*Dec. 20 -- Liberty at Sawmill Lanes

Jan. 9 -- Reynoldsburg at Holiday Lanes in makeup from Dec. 6

*Jan. 11 -- Westerville South at Delaware Lanes

*Jan. 15 -- Berlin at Delaware Lanes

Jan. 16 -- Whetstone at Delaware Lanes

*Jan. 17 -- Westerville Central at Delaware Lanes

Jan. 19 -- Central District Preview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace

*Jan. 25 -- Westerville North at Columbus Square Bowling Palace

Jan. 26 -- Jaguar Baker Marathon at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl

*Jan. 28 -- Delaware at Colony Lanes

Jan. 30 -- Buckeye Valley at Delaware Lanes

*Jan. 31 -- Grandview Heights at Sawmill Lanes

*Feb. 5 -- Marysville at Marysville Lanes

*Feb. 7 -- Big Walnut at Capri Lanes

GYMNASTICS

Dec. 22 -- *Big Walnut, Liberty and *Orange at Buckeye Gymnastics

Jan. 2 -- at Dublin Coffman with Liberty and Dublin Scioto

Jan. 9 -- at *Westerville Central with *Liberty and Big Walnut

Jan. 12 -- McGee Invitational at Coffman

Jan. 21 -- vs. Liberty, Big Walnut, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby, Hilliard Davidson and Upper Arlington

Jan. 30 -- at Worthington Kilbourne with DeSales and Dresden Tri-Valley

Feb. 9 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Thomas Worthington

Feb. 14 -- Beauty and the Beast Invitational at Orange

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey and swimming & diving teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 21 -- Home vs. Westerville Central

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Dec. 21 -- At Westerville Central

HOCKEY

*Dec. 22 -- Upper Arlington at Chiller North

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 20 -- Delaware County Classic at Ohio Wesleyan

*League contest