The sport that produced Pickerington High School North's first state champion is back, and its coach hopes this season lays the foundation for similar success in years to come.
Entering the week, the Panthers' club bowling team was off to a winning start.
North was 4-1 overall and in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-South Division after defeating Independence 1,920-1,699 on Dec. 16. The team has just five bowlers -- sophomores Chris Hoyle, Kyle Lee, Brenden Leas and Quentin Nietz and freshman Jacob Smith.
"I'm very happy with how things have started," said coach Mike Rossi, a social studies teacher at Harmon Middle School who also coaches running backs and special teams for North's football team and coaches baseball at Lakeview Junior High. "I think we have five guys right now who'll be bowling the next couple years."
Brittany Beeghley, a 2013 North graduate, won the 2012 girls individual state championship despite not competing during that regular season. North fielded a team in 2010-11, but has not since.
Beeghley's state title was North's first for an individual or team.
According to Rossi, the groundswell to return bowling to North started earlier this school year, spurred on by help from Rule 3 owner Bob McCracken. Rule 3, an entertainment and bowling center in Pickerington, will play host to North and Pickerington Central's home matches this season.
"Bob wanted to see high school teams come back to Pickerington, and I've bowled in the past. I was in leagues before my kids were born," Rossi said. "I've always been around the lanes and I want to see this take off."
The Panthers defeated Central 1,595-1,357 on Dec. 2, Columbus West 1,768-1,477 on Dec. 10 and Africentric 1,650-1,102 on Dec. 11. North lost to Grandview 1,819-1,687 on Dec. 4.
Nietz was averaging 180.1 through four matches. He rolled a 224 game against West and had a 384 series against Grandview.
"Quentin and Chris have bowled a long time. They've taken lessons and have bowled with (the Pickerington Youth Athletic Association)," Rossi said. "Brenden and Kyle are starting to find their touch. Jacob's getting started as a bowler. Just the amount of time we'll put in this season is going to make everybody even better."
North is competing in the COHSBC-South with Africentric, Briggs, Central, Columbus East, Columbus South, Eastmoor Academy, Grandview, Groveport, Independence, Marion-Franklin, Reynoldsburg, Teays Valley, Walnut Ridge, West and Whitehall.
Like North, Marion-Franklin fields only a boys team.
Tigers boys, girls return to lanes
Ten bowlers turned out at Central, enabling the school to field a club program for the first time since 2010-11. The school has boys and girls teams.
"I told our administrators in the past that if we ever had a team again here, I really wanted to coach it," said coach Jason Roach, who also coaches Central's boys track and field team. "Once we figured out we were having a team, I started looking around for kids and we just got it going. We have a great group of kids, and they're having fun. It's like golf. You can have 20 bad shots, and the one good one will make your face light up and get you coming back."
Central's boys were 0-4 overall and in the COHSBC-South before competing against Teays Valley on Dec. 16. The girls team was 0-3 before Dec. 16.
The boys team consists of seniors Trevon Jones and Austin Lenker, junior Steven Gardner and sophomores Jordan Kozak and Gared Popp. The girls roster is comprised of seniors Sarah Grim, Bailey Pachuta and Alexis Wilson sophomore Amber Griesemer and freshman Abigail Hill.
Kozak entered the week leading the boys with a 159.3 average, just ahead of Popp (148.1). Gardner was averaging 145.5 in two matches.
Griesemer, Hill and Pachuta were the only three girls bowlers to compete in all three matches entering the week.
In addition to its setback against North, the boys team lost to Briggs 1,712-1,019 on Dec. 4, to Whitehall 2,256-1,550 on Dec. 9 and to Groveport 1,619-1,506 on Dec. 11. The girls lost to Briggs 1,813-1,061, to Whitehall 1,639-923 and to Groveport 1,390-1,041.
"The ceiling is high for these kids," Roach said. "I think a big thing will be changing equipment. When we bowled against Briggs, those girls were throwing their fingertips and getting big hooks. Those are things we're still working on doing."