Chris Hoyle swore he hadn't looked up at his score on the monitor at Rule 3 on Feb. 1, but one of his teammates on the Pickerington High School North boys bowling team did.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Hoyle had just supplanted that same teammate -- William Hrivnak -- in the Panthers' history books during a 2,537-1,884 win over Independence.
"I wasn't even keeping track. I was just trying to shoot as high as I could," Hoyle said. "(Hrivnak) came up to me afterward and asked if I knew my score. I hadn't been keeping track so I asked him, and he told me it was 512. I was pleased with that."
Hoyle, a senior, might have been more pleased with his effort, which is a new two-game series record for the boys team, than Hrivnak. Hrivnak owned the previous record of 511, set Jan. 19 against Whitehall, and that was one pin better than the old mark of 510, which Jarrett Powers bowled Dec. 19, 2015, against Newark.
Such competition could be one of the main reasons North is 49-4 in regular-season matches since the start of the 2014-15 season. The Panthers clinched the COHSBC-South Division championship Feb. 2 when they defeated Africentric 2,349-752 and tied Marysville for the OCC-Central title by defeating Hilliard Davidson 2,399-2,121 on Feb. 3.
"They just enjoy each other," coach Mike Rossi said. "We are always competing with each other, and that makes them better. They always want to do one better, and they enjoy it.
"We're very excited. We want to continue on and get better heading toward the (Division I) sectional tournament. We've done well in tournaments every time, so we just hope we can continue to get better. Did I expect it? I expected us to be good, but we lost some good guys last year. I didn't know. Steven (Vance) and (Kyle) Mason, especially the last couple weeks, have bowled great. We have six who can bowl consistently well."
Led by Powers' 214.6 game average, Hrivnak's 209.6 and Hoyle's 189.3, North finished 17-1 overall and 5-1 in the OCC-Central and went 14-1 in the COHSBC-South, ahead of runner-up Whitehall (13-2).
Hrivnak set his own impressive mark against Independence, collecting 14 consecutive strikes spanning two games. Such a feat is known as a "Varipapa 300," named in honor of former professional Andy Varipapa. Varipapa, who died in 1984 at age 93, once joked that 12 strikes in a row stretching over two games should count 300.
"It's a little bit less pressure because it doesn't really count for anything, but it's still pretty cool," said Hrivnak, who has won numerous championships on an individual and team basis at city and state tournaments the past few years, including some with Powers. "I've been sticking with what I know. I have been learning about the lanes and the way that balls react, stuff like that, and over the summer I did a lot of tournaments and leagues under tougher conditions. Those helped me to be more precise, so when I came onto an easier house-shot pattern, I was able to score well."
Hrivnak also stays busy away from bowling, as he plays the violin in the school's orchestra as well as the piano, and thanks to taking three Advanced Placement classes has a 4.7 GPA.
"Being busy is the only way I know how to be," Hrivnak said. "There might be a weekend where I am caught up on stuff and don't have anything to do, and it stinks being bored. Having stuff to do makes the time go by faster."
Led by its own 1-2 punch in Alex Oppenheimer and Alayah Robinson, the girls team finished 10-6 overall, 9-5 in the COHSBC-South and 3-2 in the OCC-Central.
Robinson had a team-high 165.2 average, ahead of Oppenheimer at 149.3. One of them has led the team in scoring in all but one match this season.
Robinson's average has leapt by 13 pins from a year ago, something she attributes to renewed dedication.
"I am starting to read lanes better, and I have figured out where my mark is in a different way," Robinson said. "I have been adjusting how to shoot the ball more to figure out what works better. Whatever I've been doing is working."
Boys basketball team
hoping for late surge
Even with the OCC-Ohio championship likely out of reach, boys basketball coach Jason Bates thinks the lessons learned during a sometimes trying January can pay dividends during a four-game homestand to end the regular season.
"The rigors of this division and this schedule have made this a learning year for us," said Bates, whose team was 13-6 overall and 5-2 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Lancaster on Feb. 7. "Overall, we're excited about where we are even though we've had some tough losses. We've lost three games (to area teams) -- two to Pickerington Central (59-48 on Dec. 9 and 64-59 on Jan. 27) and one to Groveport on a last-second shot (69-67 on Jan. 10). For the most part, the guys I have were freshmen when I got here and back then, they saw us find ways to lose. It's good to see them fight. They're scrappy. I've learned more about them, and they've taken on more of my personality, more of my competitive nature."
Even in close losses, North often has found ways to come back from formidable deficits late.
The Panthers trailed Groveport by 11 points with four minutes left Jan. 10, and even took the lead in the final seconds.
In the Jan. 27 loss to Central, North led by seven points in the third quarter and came from seven points down with 23 seconds left to make it 62-59 with 3.7 seconds to go, but the Tigers hit their final eight free-throw attempts to seal the win.
North, which defeated Gahanna 58-43 in an OCC-Ohio game Feb. 3, was two games behind Central in the league standings before Feb. 7, and hoped that a strong start to the homestand would translate into a stronger position entering the Division I district tournament draw Sunday, Feb. 12. The tournament begins Feb. 25.
"We're figuring things out," Bates said. "We're building on the experience we're gaining."
for sectional meet
The swimming team quickly turned its attention from strong performances in the OCC-Ohio meet to a Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 11, at Upper Arlington.
There will be 12 boys teams and 16 girls teams at the site.
The winner of each sectional event automatically qualifies for the district meet Feb. 18 at Ohio State. In addition, 27 at-large district berths will be awarded in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites.
North's girls team won its first OCC-Ohio championship since 2014 on Jan. 28 at Thomas Worthington, while the boys team finished third to end a six-year streak of league titles.
Four senior student-athletes announced their college decisions Feb. 1.
Marqwon Hale will play football at Cincinnati Christian, Bryce Keaton will play men's lacrosse at Florida Southern, Cameron Shedenhelm will play women's soccer at Kent State and Landon Trout will play men's lacrosse at Bellarmine.