Dublin Jerome gymnastics coach Kristen Willms was pleasantly surprised by what she saw when she received the score sheet following her team's opening meet Dec. 9.
Despite having one of their best competitors, senior Grace Krouse, only able to compete on a limited basis, and another out with an injury, the Celtics scored 134.275 points to finish first of seven teams.
Then on Dec. 14 in the Hilliard Invitational at Hilliard Darby, Jerome scored a 135.675 to finish first in a 17-team field that included mostly central Ohio programs.
Last season, the Celtics placed second (program-record 139.8) in the district meet behind Thornville Sheridan (145.205) as 24 teams scored and finished 11th (134.475) of 12 teams at state behind champion Brecksville-Broadview Heights (147.65).
"We've had a lot of illness and have had a lot of injuries, people sick and out of school," said Willms, who is in her 10th season. "We didn't really know how practice was going to go. We're hoping by January that all of our injuries will be healed."
Jerome has the top returnee in the district in sophomore Raegan Ernst. As a freshman, Ernst was district champion in the all-around (36.65) and floor exercise (9.45) and was district runner-up on uneven bars (9.35). Then at state, she finished 12th (36.225) in the all-around and placed fifth on floor (9.375) to be the only central Ohio gymnast to reach the podium.
"There's a few things I'd like to clean up," Ernst said. "I took a long time off from gymnastics (to compete in track and field last spring), but I think I got back to where I need to be. I just want to make it to state and go from there. I think our team (has done) way better than I thought we (would)."
Krouse qualified for state in the all-around after tying for fifth at district with a 35.7, but she tore her left ACL and meniscus on her final vault at that meet and could not compete at state. She wasn't medically cleared for full competition until late November but scored an 8.925 to finish second on balance beam behind Ernst (9.25) in the Celtics' opening meet.
Krouse was seventh on uneven bars (8.65) at the Hilliard Invitational.
Also at Hilliard, Ernst finished first in the all-around (37.025) and junior Izzy Willms was seventh in the all-around (33.925).
Junior Carrie Gosky, who has been battling an ankle injury, is a newcomer who coach Willms expects to be a key contributor.
Senior Sydney White is another returning competitor in the all-around and freshman Kaylee Loper should provide depth.
Jerome, which is the defending OCC-Cardinal Division champion, returns to action Jan. 4 against Delaware at Central Ohio Gymnastics & Cheerleading.
"We're small, but I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing," coach Willms said. "We've got a really solid top couple kids that can post big scores."
Girls basketball team hanging tough
The girls basketball team forced overtime Dec. 13 against Olentangy Berlin but was outscored 12-2 in the extra session and lost 50-40.
It was the Celtics' first league loss, though, following a strong start in OCC-Cardinal action.
Jerome is 3-3 overall and 3-1 in the league entering its game Friday, Dec. 20, at home against Hilliard Bradley.
Then on Dec. 27 and 28, the Celtics will play Marysville and host Teays Valley, respectively, in the Jeff Sheets Holiday Classic.
Against Berlin, senior Jamie Cline made three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points, senior Brittany Sanders had 10 points and senior Kendall Sestili scored eight.
Jerome opened league action with a 54-48 victory over Scioto on Dec. 3 as Cline scored 17 points and junior Amaris Lowery scored 16 and followed with OCC-Cardinal victories over Worthington Kilbourne (46-39 on Dec. 6) and Thomas Worthington (42-22 on Dec. 10).
Another key player has been senior Alie Intihar, who had 10 points against Kilbourne to complement Cline with 12 and Sanders with 10.
Junior post player Darby Adams also has contributed.
"Jamie Cline and Amaris Lowery shot over 40 percent from the field last year and those were primarily outside shots, and we shot over 36 percent from the 3-point line (last season)," coach Natalie Herring said. "In all reality, all of our seniors can put the ball in the hole from different areas. They have different strengths. We're excited that our juniors have good potential as well."
Wrestlers fare well in Big Walnut meet
After falling to Delaware 61-15 on Dec. 12 in OCC-Cardinal action, the wrestling team earned a runner-up finish two days later in the 13-team PJ's Pizza Wrestling Classic at Big Walnut, scoring 217.5 points to finish behind Galion Northmor (235).
Placing second at Big Walnut were Jack Viola (106 pounds), Austin Wagner (113), Nick Henkel (152) and Drew Kavinsky (220). Eli Vilkinofsky (120), Alex Boukheir (145) and Joe Huber (heavyweight) each placed third and Luke Milanovich (132) was fourth.
Viola, Milanovich and Huber picked up the only wins in the dual against Delaware.
Jerome returns to action Jan. 4 at the Logan Elm Tournament.
The Celtics opened OCC-Cardinal action with a 57-24 victory over Thomas on Dec. 5 and resume league competition Jan. 9 at Kilbourne.
"We finished in third place in the OCC-Cardinal (last season) and will look to do better this year," coach Matt White said. "We realize there are many tough teams in our conference and nothing comes easy in this sport."
Below are the coming schedules for the Jerome boys basketball, girls basketball and hockey teams:
*Dec. 20 -- At Hilliard Bradley
*Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Bradley
Dec. 20 -- Newark Generals at Chiller Dublin
Dec. 22 -- Hilliard Wildcats at Chiller Ice Works