The Dublin Jerome High School gymnastics team is viewing its return to state competition as a base for what could be even better performances in the future.
At the district meet Feb. 23 at Worthington Kilbourne, the Celtics scored a program-record 139.8 points to earn a runner-up finish but lost one of central Ohio's top all-around performers, junior Grace Krouse, to a season-ending knee injury.
Jerome had just one senior but made its second state appearance as a team March 1 at Hilliard Bradley and then had two of its competitors at the state individual meet March 2 at the same site.
"We were coming into (state) knowing we'd be without Grace, and Grace is really our second scorer on everything," coach Kristen Willms said. "I told them let's do the best that we can, and the fact that they scored (134.475) was phenomenal. We did our best (balance) beam of the year, which made me so happy. Everybody had a good time. The atmosphere was fun and it was just icing on the cake to even be here."
The most memorable performance at state might have belonged to freshman Raegan Ernst, the district all-around champion, who scored a 9.375 on floor exercise March 2 to place fifth in the individual meet.
Ernst, who was the only central Ohio athlete to reach the state podium, tied for 12th (36.225) in the all-around.
In the state team meet, Ernst scored a 9.4 on floor, a 9.075 on vault and a 9.05 on beam as Jerome finished 11th. The Celtics placed 10th in 2016.
"It's so loud and different than (the) OCC and district (meets)," Ernst said. "I'm just happy I made it. It was just a fun experience to get here with the team."
Sophomore Izzy Willms scored a 9.05 on floor and a 9.0 on vault in the team meet and placed 34th (7.875) on uneven bars during the individual competition.
"We tried her pirouette on bars," coach Willms said of the half-turn that Izzy attempted. "She didn't make it today, but I think it's definitely something we'll have by next season. It increases her start value by a couple tenths, but the icing on the cake for her was just making it (to the individual competition)."
Krouse qualified for state in the all-around after tying for fifth at district with a 35.7, but she suffered a torn left ACL and meniscus on her final vault at district.
"My knee just went the opposite direction," Krouse said. "I'm a junior so I have one more year, which is nice. I really wish I could have competed (at state), but the rest of the season was really good and we were here as a team."
Jerome set a program record when it scored a 136.05 on Dec. 15 in the Hilliard Invitational, but it later surpassed that mark with a 138.9 at the OCC-Cardinal Division meet Feb. 9 at Thomas Worthington and reset the program mark again at district.
Ernst was the OCC-Cardinal champion on vault, bars and beam and placed third on floor, and Krouse finished first in the league on floor and second on vault.
The only senior in the program was Melissa Radey, who competed along with Ernst, junior Sydney White, sophomore Maddy Lucas and freshman Laney Mlicki at the state team meet.
Also in the program were sophomores Sammie Fowler and Grace Galli and freshmen Sydney Campbell and Sami Stutz.
Hockey team headed back to state tourney
The hockey team will make its third state tournament appearance when it faces Hunting Valley University School at 10 a.m. Friday, March 8, in a semifinal at Nationwide Arena.
Teams from the Central District are a combined 0-12 at state.
Jerome lost to Lakewood St. Edward 2-0 in a state semifinal in 2015 and fell to eventual champion Cleveland St. Ignatius 6-1 in a state semifinal last season, but there are reasons to believe that this season could be different.
University School improved to just 19-15-2 with a 2-1 overtime win over Gates Mills Gilmour Academy in a district final March 1 at Kent State, and Jerome beat the Preppers 8-2 on Jan. 20 in the Mark Rasmus Memorial Invitational at Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania.
In addition, the Celtics are riding a 15-game winning streak and are coming off a 1-0 victory over third-seeded Olentangy Liberty in the district final March 2 at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
Jerome, which was the district's No. 1 seed, improved to 34-2-0-1 when it beat Liberty for the fourth time this season.
Goaltender Mark Bishopp made 18 saves and right winger Evan Shea scored the game's only goal off an assist by left winger Matt Kish with 8 minutes, 25 seconds left in the second period.
Adam Booth is the center on the line with Shea and Kish.
"That line has really jelled the last two to three weeks and we told them in practice (last) week that they were going to make the difference," coach Pat Murphy said.
"We beat University School 8-2 (Jan. 20), but they're a quality team and they're well-coached. They've got a lot of really, really good student-athletes there. It's going to be a tall test for us on Friday morning."
The semifinal winner faces Cleveland St. Ignatius or Sylvania Northview in the state final at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 9, at Nationwide Arena.
The Celtics defeated Northview 7-3 on Dec. 26.
"We're going to give it a shot," Murphy said.
Wrestlers fall short of state
None of the five members of the wrestling team who competed in the Division I district tournament March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby advanced to state.
Jack Viola (106 pounds), Lane Williams (138), John Huber (170) and Zach McMinn (220) all went 1-2 and Drew Kavinsky (182) went 0-2.
The Celtics scored five points to tie for 32nd behind champion Coffman (170) as 36 teams scored.
Boys basketball team to build around Lee
The boys basketball team expects to return just two players next season in junior guard Dan Lee and junior wing player Derek Sanders.
Lee averaged 11.5 points, five rebounds, four assists and shot 43 percent from 3-point range while earning second-team all-OCC-Cardinal and honorable mention all-district honors.
Jerome is losing a 12-member senior class after going 14-9 overall and finishing runner-up in the OCC-Cardinal at 11-3, behind Bradley (14-0).
The 18th-seeded Celtics lost to 10th-seeded Canal Winchester 60-59 in overtime in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 23.
"Overall, it was a great season that sadly ended too quickly in an overtime thriller," coach Richie Beard said. "We had some great moments this season. This was a very special group. I absolutely loved this team. ... I can say this group left a tremendous legacy of what it truly means to be selfless."
Senior Trey Ballangee, who was first-team all-league and third-team all-district, averaged 12 points and seven rebounds. Senior Matthew Montgomery averaged 9.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks and was special mention all-league, senior Joseph Gatien averaged 7.2 points, 3.2 assists and 3.4 steals and was honorable mention all-league and senior Joey Pickering averaged 7.1 points and 5.2 rebounds.
"We'll have a young group next year with some possible freshmen and sophomores coupled with a few seniors," Beard said.
"The incoming freshman class and current freshman class are extremely talented and we look forward to seeing how they can mesh with our seniors. We expect Dan Lee to have a huge summer and an even bigger year next year as a senior."