Upper Arlington gymnastics coach Brittany Maynard remembers the end of last season all too well, when a handful of key competitors were injured and the Golden Bears fell short of the state team and individual meets for the fourth consecutive season.
As a result, Maynard decided to keep more gymnasts on the roster this season to develop depth in case similar circumstances strike again.
UA has 17 gymnasts, five more than a year ago, and nine of them are either freshmen or sophomores.
"That was a learning experience for us as first-year coaches, so we intentionally took more than we did last year just because of the injury situation," said Maynard, who is in her second season. "We still have some injuries, but knowing we're scoring without some important girls is encouraging.
"Knowing we have this depth for the future and seeing their skills develop, it makes it exciting for the years to come."
UA got off a strong start in its pursuit of a third consecutive OCC-Central Division championship, as it scored 128.25 points Dec. 11 at Worthington Kilbourne to finish second behind the host Wolves (134.55) and ahead of league foes Central Crossing (121.05), Westland (105.35) and Franklin Heights (102.25).
The Bears went 7-0 with 30 points in the OCC-Central last season, ahead of runner-up Hilliard Davidson (28, 5-2).
Senior Taylor Shockley led UA at Kilbourne by tying for first on balance beam (8.6) despite having a stress fracture in her back. She competed in only one event but hopes to add more by January.
Senior Addy Pittenger was fourth on floor exercise (8.8), beam (8.45), uneven bars (7.6) and the all-around (33.15) and tied for fourth on vault (8.3). Junior Tally Angelis was second on vault (8.65).
"We all have different skills. Girls are stepping up and doing events they might not have expected," Pittenger said. "I'm trying to be more consistent on bars and get better at what I did last year, but I'm also trying to upgrade my vault and floor exercises to higher difficulty to get better scores."
Junior Mia Tzagournis missed the opening meet because of mononucleosis and hopes to return in January.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Ava Carlin, Audrey Pool and Sydney Rose, junior Hope Perry, sophomores Allie Hoover and Neila Sarkis and freshmen Ann Bixel, Madison Hall, Sally Jones, Bella Lewis, Amelia Pearson, Annie Shaw and Emme Stephens.
"We have a strong senior class along with the freshmen, who are amazing to begin with," Shockley said. "We have a lot of good assets to the team overall. We can do really well. We are looking at the long run. (A league championship) is our main goal."
UA does not have a home meet this season because of construction at the high school.
According to Maynard, beam could be the Bears' second-strongest event after floor.
"We've looked so much more confident on beam than we did ever last year. There was so much poise and confidence in their routines," she said. "Floor has always been one of our strengths and it's continuing to be one of our strengths. We're impressed with our freshmen who have come in. Getting them into a competitive environment has been good and they will contribute."
Hockey team enjoying fast start
Hockey coach Brett Howden attributed the team's undefeated start to multiple strengths he expected entering the season.
"We're pretty balanced across all of our lines, which has been outstanding. We've had great output and production across all four lines," Howden said. "We expected Will Lawless to be one of our top players entering the year and he has backed that up (with seven goals through nine games). Still, we've focused on our defense. When you look at our work as a whole, we know what we have in (goaltender) Garrett Alderman, but it all starts with the defensemen in front of him. We play a compact defense all over the ice and we've limited (opponents') quality scoring chances."
UA, which has outscored its opponents 68-6, is 11-0 overall and 7-0 in the CHC entering a Friday, Dec. 20, game against Findlay in the Parma Padua Holiday Tournament at OBM Arena.
The Bears shut out Dublin Jerome, last year's state runner-up, 6-0 on Dec. 13 at OhioHealth Ice Haus and beat Olentangy Liberty 3-1 on Dec. 15 at the Ice Haus.
The Bears' 11-0 win over Olentangy on Dec. 8 at the Ice Haus was the sixth shutout of the season for Alderman, setting a program record.
Will Cohen leads UA with 12 goals, followed by Sam Burns and Adam Karap (10 each), Lawless (7) and Tristen Elmhurst (6).
The Bears will participate in the Parma Padua Holiday Tournament from Friday, Dec. 20, through Sunday, Dec. 22, at OBM Arena. Games will follow against Dublin Coffman on Dec. 27 at Ice Haus and Jerome on Dec. 29 at Chiller Dublin.
"This is a trying stretch coming up," Howden said. "It will be a great test."
Swim teams getting set for key dual
In the long run, the girls swimming and diving team's 93-92 loss to New Albany in a dual meet Dec. 15, 2018, was a harbinger of competitions to come.
UA edged New Albany 306-295 for the Division I district championship two months later, and the teams placed fifth and seventh, respectively, at the state meet.
Before the season started, senior Erin Reardon pointed to the Bears' home dual against the Eagles on Friday, Dec. 20, as a measuring stick again this year. New Albany is led by Ohio State recruit Mia Lachey, a niece of former Ohio State and NFL football player and current Buckeyes radio analyst Jim Lachey who was on last year's state title 400-yard freestyle relay with classmate and Villanova recruit Lexi Elkovitch and sophomores Ava Lachey and Olivia Hovorka.
"We're as good as them. We need to fight hard to beat them," Reardon said. "It's fun because a lot of the girls and I used to swim against their girls in age group, so we've been racing each other for literally years. To do that in high school is a lot of fun. It makes the meet that much more competitive. They're fun anyway, but you know you have to win. It's not going to be a blowout."
The boys team lost to New Albany 101-92 last season.
The Bears swept the Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational held Dec. 13 and 14 at Ohio State. The boys scored 459.5 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Jerome (395) as 35 teams scored, and the girls won with 383 points, 79 ahead of runner-up New Albany, as 41 teams scored.
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 20 -- At Westland
Dec. 21 -- Home vs. Monroe
*Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Westland
Dec. 21 -- At Teays Valley
Dec. 20 -- Findlay in Parma Padua Holiday Tournament at OBM Arena
Dec. 21 -- Sylvania Northview and Toledo St. Francis in Parma Padua Holiday Tournament
Dec. 22 -- TBD in Parma Padua Holiday Tournament
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 20 -- Home vs. New Albany
Dec. 21 -- Firebird Wrestling Classic at Kettering Fairmont