Grace Ritterspach's thirst for gymnastics couldn't be quenched with the normal three-hour practice sessions with the Olentangy Orange High School program.

Being home-schooled for the first time, the sophomore decided to improve her performances through six-hour workouts at Central Ohio Gymnastics and Cheer. She said the results are apparent with each competition this season.

In the Warhawk Invitational on Jan. 25 at Worthington Youth Boosters Gymnastics, Ritterspach was third in the all-around (34.75) behind two gymnasts from defending district champion Thornville Sheridan, Sydney Bradley (37.1) and Rylee Rodich (35.15).

"In the first few months I already have seen a lot of change," she said. "It takes a lot of time to make those corrections and keep your form looking good and keeping up your strength. When you are (at the gym) all day, you have more time to focus on the details.

"I have improved a lot in bars and that's becoming one of my best events. Also I have been working on upping my skill level on beam, so that's coming along pretty well."

Ritterspach said she is coached from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. "four or five days per week by Misty (Lloyd-Matthews) and Heather (Besselman)."

Orange coach Jen Hedrick has noticed the results from Ritterspach's performances in competition.

"Grace is a great gymnast with a lot of skill, and she's hard-working and is passionate about gymnastics," Hedrick said. "This has given her higher-level skills, and we have seen her putting in those new skills. The biggest thing is her confidence. She definitely is hard on herself and having more time in the gym and having smaller-group time is good for her."

Ritterspach recently reached Level 8 status and continues working to increase that ranking. The extra time in the gym should help her reach that goal.

"I'm hoping to move up to Level 9 soon because I have been working on those skills," she said. "I'm a Level 8 now, and it goes up to Level 10 and then it goes to elite, which is where you start to get into the Olympics and all of that."

Ritterspach started gymnastics in the fourth grade, but stopped after one season because of a stomach disorder. She resumed the sport in the seventh grade and found a renewed passion.

"I was sick and I needed a mental break to find my love for the sport again," she said. "I took a break and heard there were sign-ups for middle school, so I tried it. I remembered how much fun I had and decided to join the team again.

"I really like how rewarding it is when your hard work pays off by achieving skills. (On Jan. 29), I got my clear-up handstand down on the bars, which is something I have been working on for three years. That was amazing."

Ritterspach and the Pioneers are preparing for the OCC-Buckeye Division meet Saturday, Feb. 9, at Thomas Worthington.

Last season, Orange placed third (124.75) behind Olentangy (140.5) and Liberty (128.15) as Ritterspach finished fourth in the all-around (32.025) to lead the Pioneers.

"We're doing a lot better this year, and I'm very happy about that," she said. "We have a lot of new girls and we already have beaten our record for total points a couple of times so I'm proud of that. (In the Warhawk Invitational) we scored 133.9, which is our highest ever. Last year, our best was 127."

Balance key for boys bowling team

The boys bowling team has found success by having its top four players averaging within nine pins of one another.

The Pioneers were 7-3 overall, 6-3 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A Division and 3-2 in the OCC-Buckeye before facing New Albany on Feb. 5.

Brendan Tansky (176.3), Jake Norz (174.3), Tanner Davidson (172.2) and Jacob Burre (167.1) were leading the way through nine matches.

The girls team was 5-5 overall, 4-5 in the COHSBC-A and 1-4 in the OCC-Buckeye before facing New Albany.

Makenzie Peterson (168.2), Raymie Shields (155.2), Remy Gray (134.1) and Eve Wicks (132.4) have been the top competitors.

Boys basketball team sweeps South

The boys basketball team had won four of its last five games before playing Franklin Heights on Feb. 5.

The Pioneers improved to 11-6 overall by defeating Westerville South 75-59 on Feb. 1 in OCC-Buckeye play. They also defeated the Wildcats 80-73 on Dec. 21, as coach Anthony Calo swept his father, Wildcats coach Ed Calo, to tie their series at 3.

Orange remains in the league title race at 6-2, one game behind league-leading Liberty (7-1). It closes league play with games against Olentangy on Friday, Feb. 8, at home and at Westerville North on Feb. 15.

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

Schedules

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

BOYS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 8 -- Home vs. Olentangy. The Pioneers defeated the Braves 66-65 on Jan. 4.

Feb. 9 -- Home vs. Urbana

GIRLS BASKETBALL

*Feb. 8 -- At Olentangy. The Pioneers lost to the Braves 46-43 on Jan. 4.

Feb. 12 -- At Buckeye Valley

Feb. 16 -- At 11th-seeded Teays Valley in first round of Division I district tournament. The Pioneers are seeded 34th.

HOCKEY

Feb. 7-10 -- Blue Jackets Cup at TBA

SWIMMING & DIVING

Feb. 9 -- Division I sectional at Kenyon College. The winner of each event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advance to district Feb. 15 at Ohio State. There is no diving at sectional.

WRESTLING

*Feb. 7 -- At Westerville South

Feb. 9 -- All-North Tournament at Dublin Jerome

*League contest