Already a violin player in the Gahanna Lincoln High School orchestra, Morgan Wiles chose during her sophomore year to try out for the girls bowling team.
She competed for the junior varsity that season and became a key contributor as a junior last winter as the Lions advanced to the state tournament for the first time.
With Wiles, senior classmate Kelsey Ferguson, junior Erika Reed and sophomore Samantha Toale leading the way, the Lions were 6-0 overall before facing Hilliard Darby on Jan. 9.
The decision to give the bowling team a try is one that Wiles said she will never forget, especially since it might have helped save her life.
On Nov. 12, 2010, Wiles went to a pharmacy for a mandatory physical to compete in a school sport and was told she had an enlarged thyroid.
Wiles, who was born with a cleft lip and palate and had rhinoplasty surgery in August 2010, was in for an annual craniofacial appointment on Feb. 1, 2011, when she learned the results of a biopsy done that January.
She had a tumor on her thyroid and several tumors in the lymph glands and underneath her thyroid. She had surgery on Feb. 25, 2011, to remove the cancerous areas.
"I really enjoy being a part of the team," Wiles said. "It could have been a lot longer before they found out (I had cancer) if I hadn't had that physical."
A study on cancer.org says the five-year survival rate for thyroid cancer patients in stages one or two is close to 100 percent.
Wiles returned from the hospital three days after her surgery, but not before Ferguson and a few others visited her.
"When she told us (she had cancer) we were really shocked," said Ferguson, who plays clarinet in the school band and has been on the bowling team since her freshman year. "She told us in the band room one day. I know if it were me, I'd be freaking out, but she seemed to be handling it well. We went and visited her after a band concert."
Wiles began bowling and playing her violin within a few weeks after the surgery and stayed on a low-iodine diet for several weeks. Her voice returned to full strength about two months after the surgery.
Because the cancer didn't spread to other parts of her body, she was declared in remission by doctors last June.
"I was pretty shocked when I found out (about the cancer)," Wiles said. "I couldn't have iodized salt and I had to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables for a while. It was kind of scary, but the surgery and treatment have helped. I feel less tired now."
Wiles' mother, Kim Wiles, is a teacher's aide at High Point Elementary. Her father, Steve Wiles, is an insurance agent.
Wiles has a 3.8 GPA and is planning to major in middle childhood education at Ashland University.
Among Wiles' other goals is helping the Lions make a second consecutive appearance in the state bowling tournament.
Last season, the girls placed third (3,415) in the 18-team district tournament at HP Lanes behind Westerville Central (3,603) and Cardington (3,585) to advance to state at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, where they were 16th (2,683) in the qualifying round. Ferguson (60th, 486) and Wiles (67th, 471) were among Gahanna's top four scorers.
The Lions were first in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-North Division before facing Darby. During a 1,777-1,684 win over Hilliard Bradley on Jan. 2, Wiles averaged 168.5 for two games, followed by Ferguson (167), Reed (156.5) and Toale (156).
"So far we're doing really well," said Wiles, who has four siblings who also attended Gahanna schools. "State was a good learning experience. It showed us how much harder we have to work. We want to go back there."
Wiles knew Ferguson when she first decided to go out for bowling, but they have become closer since then.
"She's really good," said Ferguson, who is planning to attend Columbus State next year. "I always try to beat her. She's improved on her hook to get the ball to curve more and I've improved my average and am picking up a lot more spares."
Kelly Ferguson, who is Kelsey Ferguson's mother and coach of the bowling program, said Wiles is the perfect teammate.
"It's scary to go through something like that at her age," coach Ferguson said. "Morgan is always there at every practice and is a really good student. ... She's always got a very good attitude and is always enthusiastic."