After the Watterson High School girls bowling team lost its first five matches, assistant coach Justin Mieczkjc told his athletes that he would braid his long hair if they would win a match.
He fulfilled his promise after the Eagles beat Haugland Learning Center's boys j.v. team in an exhibition match Jan. 6 and said he would continue to do something special to his hair each time the team won a match.
After Watterson defeated Mifflin 1,346-1,170 on Jan. 23, Mieczkjc showed up to the Eagles' next match with his hair in curls. Then, after the Eagles beat Centennial 1,370-1,369 on Jan. 30, he styled his hair into pigtails.
Mieczkjc will be showing off a new hairstyle when the Eagles compete in a Division I sectional Friday, Feb. 21, at Eastland Lanes, as they closed out the regular season Feb. 11 by rolling a 1,346 to defeat Columbus International (1,328) and Linden-McKinley (1,208).
"Our girls team is very young and they were having a tough year, so I started this as a way to motivate them to do better and they really grabbed onto it," Mieczkjc said. "I looked like the cowardly lion when I had my hair in curls and I looked really silly with my hair in pigtails, but when I say I'm going to do something, I do it and I'm not afraid to laugh at myself. They want me to have troll-doll hair for sectional and I'll do it if (head coach) Jerry Wagner will let me. Otherwise, I'll need to think of something else."
Watterson won four of its last six matches to finish 4-7 overall and in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central Division.
Freshman Cecelia Baker has a team-best 125.1 game average, followed by freshmen Claire Tillman (115.3), Nicole Stock (112.7) and Elizabeth King (105.9).
"All but one of our girls are freshmen and we didn't expect to win a match this season," Wagner said. "Watching Justin come to matches with his hair in curls and in pigtails is comical, but it really is motivating the girls to do better. The reality is that it may have caused us to win a couple more matches this year."
The top 20 teams and top 20 individuals not on a qualifying team at sectional advance to district March 1 at Eastland Lanes.
If the Eagles advance to district as a team, Mieczkjc said he will chop off his long locks to reward his players.
"I don't want to cut my hair, but if I need to because it motivates our team to make it to sectional, then that will be a fantastic reason to do it," he said.
The boys team finished 18th (3,232) in the 30-team Division II sectional Feb. 14 at Sawmill Lanes behind champion Buckeye Valley (4,195), falling four places shy of advancing to district Saturday, Feb. 22, at HP Lanes.
The Eagles will be represented at district by senior David Carter, who finished fifth at sectional with a 649 series to advance.
Harry Shaw (71st, 474) was next for Watterson, with Steven Stiegelman (80th, 455) and Tony Pulsinelli (83rd, 442) rounding out its top four finishers.
"David had 11 strikes in a row at one point and ended up bowling a 290 in his second game, which is fantastic," said Mieczkjc, whose boys team finished 5-8 overall and in the COHSBC-Central.
The top three individuals not on a qualifying team at district advance to state Feb. 28 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
Carter also was a district qualifier last season, rolling a 604 series to place 12th.
"David's capable of making it to state if he stays focused," Wagner said. "He's just needs to keep his feet slow, stay low and follow through. He did that in his second game at sectional and he bowled a 290, so we know he can bowl a good series if he stays consistent."
Grubbe, relay advance to state in swimming
Four members of the girls swimming and diving team advanced to the Division I state meet Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
Madeline Grubbe finished third in the 100-yard backstroke in 58.3 seconds in the district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State to earn an at-large state berth. The senior is seeded 17th for state.
Last year at state, Grubbe placed 19th in the 100 back (58.75).
"This is the highest I've placed at district individually, so I feel good about it," she said. "I didn't feel that good when I swam, so I think I have more taper left in me and that I can drop more time at state."
Grubbe also teamed with junior Alicia Margello, sophomore Carrie Horan and junior Taylor Brown to place seventh in the 200 medley relay (1:50.7) and earn an at-large state berth. The relay is seeded 23rd for state.
Last year at state, Grubbe, Horan, 2013 graduate Sam Schuttinger and Josephine Fike finished 10th in the 200 medley relay (program-record 1:48.16).
"This is exciting because we all worked really hard for this," Brown said. "We broke our school record at state last year and I hope we can break it there again."
Watterson scored 81 points at district to place 12th behind champion Upper Arlington (522.5) as 24 teams scored.
Boys basketball team rebounds from loss
The boys basketball team bounced back from a 54-38 loss to host Upper Arlington on Feb. 10 by winning its next three games.
Watterson defeated Caledonia River Valley 95-53 on Feb. 11 and beat DeSales 57-36 in a CCL game Feb. 14 at Ohio Dominican University before beating Buckeye Valley 56-27 on Feb. 15.
The Eagles, who were 19-2 overall before playing Dublin Jerome in their regular-season finale Feb. 18, won their third consecutive CCL title and finished 8-0 in the league for the second year in a row.
Ryan Lewis had 22 points and Matt Lehmann scored 15 against River Valley. Max Bordine had 13 points and Andy Grieser scored 12 against DeSales, and Grieser and Joe DiOrio scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, against Buckeye Valley.
Watterson begins its defense of the Division II state championship Tuesday, Feb. 25, when it plays host to 13th-seeded Sparta Highland or 25th-seeded Linden-McKinley in the second round.
The Eagles are the top seed in the district and have a first-round bye.
The second-round winner advances to a district semifinal March 5 at Newark.
Girls basketball team wins tourney opener
The girls basketball team defeated 31st-seeded Briggs 53-42 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 15 to improve to 15-7.
Bryn McQuade led the 15th-seeded Eagles with 17 points.
Watterson played eighth-seeded Teays Valley in the second round Feb. 19. The winner faces second-seeded Upper Arlington, 36th-seeded Thomas Worthington or 38th-seeded Central Crossing in a district semifinal Feb. 27 at Westerville Central.
The Eagles defeated Hilliard Bradley 47-45 in overtime in their regular-season finale Feb. 11. Rachel Lines had a team-high 10 points.
Three wrestlers reach district tournament
Three members of the wrestling team qualified for the Division II district tournament Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at Uhrichsville Claymont.
Mark Guza (126 pounds), Michael Guza (132) and Ben Kring (120) all placed in the top four in their respective weight classes in the sectional Feb. 15 at Licking Valley to advance to district.
A district qualifier last season at 126, Michael Guza went 2-1 and placed second, losing to Bloom-Carroll's Gabe Gibson 16-4 in the final.
Kring went 4-1 and placed third, and Mark Guza went 1-2 and placed fourth.
The top four placers in each weight class at district advance to the state tournament Feb. 27-March 1 at Ohio State.
Watterson scored 45 points in the 14-team sectional to finish 10th behind champion Licking Valley (177.5).
Hockey team falls in district tourney
The hockey team lost to fifth-seeded Olentangy Liberty 8-3 in the second round of the district tournament Feb. 16 at Chiller North to finish 15-13.
Sam Magee had two goals, Luke Andracki scored one and goaltender Aaron King had 40 saves against the Patriots.
Seeded 16th of 23 teams, Watterson defeated 14th-seeded Centerville 6-4 in the first round Feb. 14 at Chiller North, marking its first district tournament win in its five-year history.
Magee had three goals, Andracki scored two and King had 31 saves against the Elks.
This season marked the first time the Eagles finished with a winning record.