The Reynoldsburg High School girls bowling team has found multiple sources of inspiration during one of the best starts in program history.
During the Raiders' first 10 matches, sophomore Lauren Sampson was third on the team with a 128.2 game average.
Sampson, who bowls from a wheelchair because she has spina bifida, wasn't expected to be able to continue competing this season because of an illness.
"I just love being here," senior Angela Williams said. "Lauren is amazing and she's a great bowler, too. I was excited for this year to start and I'm a senior, so I'm kind of sad that it's my last year."
Williams has attempted to be a source of encouragement as well for a team that was 11-0 overall after beating Lancaster 1,771-1,743 on Jan. 14.
The Raiders were 8-0 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-South Division before matches against Briggs on Jan. 15 and Columbus East on Jan. 16.
Reynoldsburg also competes in the OCC-Ohio and is 4-0 in that league after the Lancaster match. Groveport, Newark, Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne are the other teams in the OCC-Ohio.
The Raiders are off until Jan. 24 when they face Thomas at Capri Lanes.
"Angela just helps pump us up," sophomore Michaela Johnson said. "She always has a smile on her face and helps us know where to line up. We have two great seniors in Angela and Katie (Crow) and it's been a wonderful surprise to be doing so well."
Last season, Reynoldsburg finished fifth (7-4) in the COHSBC-South behind champion Briggs (11-0).
Briggs also was 8-0 in the league before facing Reynoldsburg. Whitehall, which lost to Reynoldsburg 1,750-1,733 on Dec. 21 for its first league defeat, competed against Briggs on Jan. 16.
In the Raiders' 1,530-1,312 win over Walnut Ridge on Jan. 7, Johnson led with a 160 average, followed by Williams (138.5), Sampson (134), Crow (119.5) and sophomore Emily Harrell (112).
Juniors Brittani Briner, Amber Grigley and Courtney Quappi all could see increased action in Sampson's absence.
Sampson's best performance this season came when she averaged 174.5 during a 1,668-928 win over Columbus South in the Raiders' opener Dec. 3.
"It's a good team with a lot of good players and some new girls coming up," coach Jean Martin said."
For Williams, it's all about putting a smile on her teammates' faces.
"Even if I'm having a really bad day, I try to always stay in a good mood," Williams said. "With Emily, she really gets frustrated sometimes so I'll just call her 'SpongeBob' because she needs to stay straight and needs to (keep her form) in a box like SpongeBob. With Katie, I always tell her not be so serious, so I'll say, 'Why so serious?' like in (the movie) 'The Dark Knight.' I just try to keep everybody in a good mood.
"I've bowled for many, many years, but I just got on the team last year and was the top girl right off the bat somehow. I really love to bowl."
The boys team, which also is coached by Martin, will need help if it is to stay in the COHSBC-South title race.
Although the Raiders had won three in a row before losing to Lancaster 2,217-1,858 on Jan. 14, and facing Briggs on Jan. 15 and East on Jan. 16, they have COHSBC-South losses to Teays Valley (2,104-1,836 on Dec. 17) and Whitehall (2,515-2,208) and were 6-2 in the league.
Senior Zak Aeling was leading in average before the Lancaster match at 184, followed by sophomore Chad Szczepanski (182.4), senior Matt Scholl (177.9) and senior Canai Brent (173.9).
Reynoldsburg was 7-4 overall before Jan. 15 and 2-2 in the OCC-Ohio.
"They're all perfectly capable of bowling well," Martin said.
"Zak had a 252 game against Whitehall and Chad is really going to be something."