A hit to the groin would have hurt under any circumstances, but for Olentangy High School bowler Chris Brown, it was potentially lifesaving.
A few minutes horsing around with his younger brother one day in August 2016, shortly before Brown's junior year began, led to a diagnosis of testicular cancer.
"My little brother and I were roughhousing and playing around and he ended up hitting me in the groin," Brown said. "Things just weren't right the next couple days, so we went to the doctor and from there straight to the emergency room.
"Without getting too graphic, things just weren't right."
Brown underwent surgery the day after his doctor's visit to remove his right testicle, and three months of chemotherapy followed to remove the stage III germ cell cancer that had spread into his lymphatic system and close to his pancreas, although it did not invade that organ. According to Brown, the cells had been in his body since birth.
Prognosis for survival is 73 percent, according to cancer.net.
A bowler since his freshman year, Brown's treatment kept him out of the sport as a junior, although only in the sense that he could not participate. Virtually quarantined in his house during chemotherapy because of his weakened immune system, Brown still attended every home match and hung out with his teammates as often as possible.
He was declared cancer-free in early December 2016, just before the season began, and returned to the boys team this season. Brown averaged 149.2 pins per game through 10 matches, helping Olentangy to records of 5-5 overall, 5-4 in the Central Ohio High School Conference-A Division and 3-2 in the OCC-Buckeye before a Jan. 30 match against Westerville North.
Brown's high game was a 207 during the Central District Preview on Jan. 21 at Columbus Square Bowling Palace.
"He's been through some real-life stuff. That keeps things in perspective," coach Jim Brehm said. "It was touch and go for a bit. He's such a proud kid. He didn't want us to do anything for him. He just wanted to be one of the guys.
"He isn't our high bowler, but what he is is our high-energy guy."
Brown's recovery came with appreciation and pain, not all of which was physical.
"I learned what it meant to be alive because there was a time I didn't think I was going to be," he said. "I learned who was there, and unfortunately who wasn't. I got to weed out and remove people from my life who weren't there when I needed them the most. I learned what it meant to be appreciative for the life that we have, anything from modern medicine to family and friends to time spent alone and how important that can be. You appreciate things like going to the grocery store."
Brown said support from both his boys and girls teammates was instrumental.
He hesitated to single out anyone in particular, but named his girlfriend, bowler Adrienne Moorman, and said boys teammates Michael Lamar, Tyler McMaster and Garret Ross are some of his oldest friends.
"It can happen to anyone. You hear about it but you never think it will happen to somebody right next to you," McMaster said. "He's our teammate no matter what. He is there for us. We're great friends. He'll do anything to support us. Going through all that, he still found time to come and support us.
"You'd never know he was sick unless you asked him about it."
Kuriger, Parker lead swimmers at OCC meet
Bridget Parker of the girls swimming and diving team won two individual events and helped a relay to victory as Olentangy finished second in the OCC-Buckeye meet Jan. 27 at Thomas Worthington.
Parker won the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 56.96 seconds) and 500 free (5:14.57) and was on the first-place 200 medley relay (1:50.96) with Grace Butcher, Olivia Gollmar and Grace Horstman. Second-place finishes from Butcher in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.08), Gollmar in the 100 free (55.7) and Liz Passias in the 200 individual medley (2:20.42) helped the Braves to 273.5 points, just behind Liberty (279) and ahead of Orange (186), Westerville Central (182.5), Westerville North (161) and Westerville South (145).
The boys finished third (210.5) behind Liberty (400.5) and Orange (259) and ahead of North (163), South (142) and Central (73). Ben Kuriger won the 100 free (45.62) and 200 IM (2:00) and was on the second-place 200 free relay (1:32.42) with Preston Kuriger, Jack Nebraska and Ben Paull and the runner-up 400 free relay (3:21.09) with Garrett Graybill, Preston Kuriger and Paull.
Girls basketball coach adjusting lineup
Several recent injuries, including a season-ending broken wrist for guard Lauren Biehl, forced girls basketball coach Mike Daniels to juggle his lineup.
Biehl, a 5-6 senior, broke her right wrist in three places during a 69-48 loss to Liberty on Jan. 12. She underwent surgery Jan. 24.
Guard Courtney Suchan was recovering last week from a twisted ankle, and guard Lauren Tarpey had a knee injury but returned for a 54-40 win over Westerville North on Jan. 26.
As a result, sophomores Haley Cera (guard) and Bailey Cummings (forward) have seen increased playing time, as has senior guard Cassie Dulay, who has gone from coming off the bench to starting.
Olentangy improved to 8-10 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Buckeye with the win over North. Grace Pennington scored a career-high 21 points and made a school-record six 3-pointers.
On Jan. 27, Molly Delaney scored 11 points and Pennington had 11 in a 48-40 loss at Logan.
"Some of the girls are still trying to acclimate to varsity play and playing together. That's a process that takes time," Daniels said. "Molly and Grace are pretty tough and they're helping everybody as much as they can, and Jessica (Nation)'s athletic ability helps keep us in games, too."
White earns big win on mat
The wrestling team suffered two close losses in as many nights last week, but still got to celebrate a milestone achievement from one of its newest competitors.
Senior James White IV won his 100th career match Jan. 24, defeating Orange's Mike Monago 10-4 at 138 pounds during a Region 5-B second-round match in the Division I team dual tournament at Delaware. Later that night, White pinned Westerville North's Bruce Wilson in 1:22 in the Braves' 39-28 loss to the second-seeded Warriors.
Olentangy, which was seeded third, beat sixth-seeded Orange 55-13.
White wrestled three years at Delaware before moving to Olentangy.
"There's definitely room for improvement everywhere but so far, I've been good," White said. "I'm trying to hit it hard in the room with the guys. Looking for a trip to (state) in March, that's what I'm looking forward to right now."
The Braves won 10 matches against Orange and five against North.
On Jan. 25, Olentangy fell to 2-1 in the OCC-Buckeye with a 40-34 loss to Liberty.
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling teams:
*Feb. 2 -- Home vs. Westerville Central. The Braves lost to the Warhawks 68-57 on Dec. 22.
Feb. 6 -- At Hilliard Davidson
*Feb. 2 -- At Westerville Central. The Braves defeated the Warhawks 59-49 on Dec. 22.
Feb. 3 -- At Lexington
Feb. 6 -- Home vs. Davidson
*Feb. 2 -- Big Walnut at Delaware Lanes
Feb. 6 -- Olentangy Liberty and Olentangy Orange at Capri Lanes
Feb. 7 -- At Marysville
*Feb. 3 -- Dublin Coffman at Chiller North
*Feb. 4 -- Thomas Worthington at Chiller North
Feb. 3 -- Rieman Invitational at Delaware
*Feb. 7 -- At Westerville North