When Kenzie Gearheart joined the Westerville South High School girls bowling team in her sophomore year, she received plenty of support from family and friends.
In that way, she is no different from her teammates.
For Gearheart, though, the support includes incomparable knowledge. Her grandfather, Roy Buckley, competed on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour from 1969-83 and was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1992.
"We've never really talked about (his pro career), but bowling has always been a part of the family," Gearheart said. "When it came time to learn how to bowl, it was pretty nice because I didn't have to hear just one person's perspective like a coach, I could go to him and he could tell me what he knew was best for me and what to do."
Buckley was one of the top bowlers on the PBA Tour in the early to mid-1970s, finishing among the top 10 on the yearly earnings and average list from 1971-76. He earned more than $600,000 in his career and traveled across the country, including making trips with his wife of 53 years, Alice, and daughter, Angela, who is Kenzie's mother.
Now 75, Buckley competes in a weekly league at Columbus Square Bowling Palace -- he said his current average is 209 -- and attends his granddaughter's matches.
He graduated from Columbus West in 1961 and began bowling at about 16 years old.
"I worked at a grocery store and we'd work until about 9 or 10 at night and then there was really no place to go or nothing to do afterwards," Buckley said. "About a half dozen of us ended up going to the bowling alley. It pretty much started there."
He grew to love the sport, leading to turning pro in the late 1960s.
"It beat working," Buckley said of his time on the PBA Tour. "It was work, but it was a way out for me. ... Bowling has been my life since I was 16 years old."
Buckley still follows the sport, but said it's much different from when he competed professionally.
"It's not the same game," he said. "There's so much difference now, especially with the two-handers. There are more powerful balls. Between the balls and the lane surfaces, it has changed tremendously. They're playing for a lot more money now than what we did."
Gearheart, a junior, is winding down her two-year prep career because she will be graduating early from South. She was recognized on senior day Feb. 12, as the Wildcats earned a 1,966-1,679 win over Lancaster at Columbus Square Bowling Palace.
Gearheart has a 158.8 average with a high game of 225 this season.
"(My grandfather) helped me a lot outside (of high school bowling)," she said. "He made it a lot simpler. He explained it in ways he knew I could understand and ways that I could improve on more than the technicalities of things."
South will compete in the 38-team Division I sectional Friday, Feb. 22, at HP Lanes.
"(Gearheart has made) a huge improvement," coach Jamie West said. "I keep telling her that she needs to stay for her senior year. She's getting so much better. She's the one who bought into it and wanted to do it. Her grandfather doesn't push it. I've known Roy forever. I might talk to him about equipment or fit, but he lets us do what we do.
"For somebody who didn't bowl before last year, she's got it."
Maggie VanScyoc leads the Wildcats with a 177 average, followed by Sophie Hand (168.9), Taylor Hughes (162.4) and Gearheart.
"She really wasn't all that interested in it until about a couple of years ago when she decided she wanted to bowl on the high school team," Buckley said. "I showed her a few things over the years, but she didn't seem to be interested. She's played (ice) hockey, she's played volleyball, she's played basketball. She's done all of it growing up and now she's finally got around to the bowling."
South finished fourth (8-3) in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A Division behind champion Westerville Central (10-1) and tied Big Walnut for second (5-2) in the OCC-Buckeye behind Central (6-1).
The boys team went 9-2 in the COHSBC-A to finish second behind Central (11-0) and tied Olentangy and Olentangy Orange for second (5-2) in the OCC-Buckeye behind Central (7-0).
The boys will compete in the 43-team Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 23, at HP Lanes.
The top 16 boys and girls teams and top 16 individuals not on boys and girls qualifying teams advance to district March 2 at HP Lanes.
Boys basketball team preps for postseason
The boys basketball team closed the regular season with a 76-66 loss to Canton McKinley on Feb. 16 at North Canton Hoover.
Jordan McMillian scored 25 points and Ryan Greggs and Jacob Singleton each had 11.
The Wildcats have lost 10 consecutive games and are 6-15 overall. They finished 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye with a 52-45 loss at Central on Feb. 15, as McMillian scored 17 points.
South is seeded 27th in the Division I district tournament and opens March 1 with a second-round game against seventh-seeded Reynoldsburg or 38th-seeded Mifflin.
The Wildcats lost at Johnstown 50-38 on Feb. 12 as Jaiden Guice scored 15 points.
Girls basketball team to begin postseason
The sixth-seeded girls basketball team plays host to 15th-seeded Thomas Worthington on Friday, Feb. 22, in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
The winner plays 14th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley or 30th-seeded Walnut Ridge in a semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 27, at a neutral site to be determined.
The Wildcats improved to 16-5 overall and finished 10-0 in the OCC-Buckeye with a 51-47 win at Central on Feb. 15. Anyssa Jones scored 17 points and Gabby Hutcherson added 11.
The Wildcats won their second consecutive outright league title.
Wrestling team to compete at sectional
The wrestling team will compete in a 10-team Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 23, at Marysville.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to district March 1 and 2 at Hilliard Darby.
South lost 33-30 at Central on Feb. 14 to finish 0-5 in the OCC-Buckeye. Winners by pin for the Wildcats were Fuanyi Fobellah at 106 pounds (1 minute, 45 seconds) and Bobby Henderson at 145 (4:00).>> UPDATE: Morton reinstated for sectional <<
South competed without junior Aaron Morton, who was suspended after being called for unsportsmanlike conduct in the final at 160 in the All-North Tournament on Feb. 9 at Dublin Jerome.
Morton will miss sectional, ending his season.
"Aaron is a great kid (and) an outstanding wrestler," athletics director Josh DeVoll said. "He's facing a little bit of adversity right now and I'm confident that he'll handle it well and be able to ... bounce back even stronger next year as a senior."
The Wildcats finished 10th (81) in the 12-team Nye Cardinal Classic on Feb. 16 at St. Charles behind champion Dublin Coffman (336). Jacob Shalvey finished third at 182 to lead South.
Swimming teams wrap up season
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams closed their season in the Division I district meet Feb. 15 at Ohio State.
"We knew the field was going to be fast," said coach CJ Morabito, who completed her first season. "The season was very good. Everybody far exceeded their expectations. The kids swam fast (at district)."
Freshman Emily Ellsworth led the girls, finishing 10th in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:07.57) and 16th in the 200 individual medley (2:14.12).
Sophomore Maeve Stacey was 12th in the 100 breast (1:08.06).
Senior Dylan Gary led the boys, finishing 21st in the 100 backstroke (56.55).