At last year's Division I district tournament, McKenzie Cooke and Hannah Halstead were the only non-seniors to compete for the Delaware Hayes girls bowling team.
That duo has constituted the backbone of this year's team from an experience standpoint as well as from an emotional one.
"They motivate each other," coach Darin Halstead said. "That's why I keep them together. The two of them are neck-and-neck in average."
Hannah Halstead, a sophomore and the coach's daughter, turned in the team's third-best score at district a year ago with a 495 three-game series, behind 2019 graduates Kelsey Rohrer (580) and Alyssa Williams (500). Rohrer advanced to state.
Cooke had the team's fifth-best district score (422) last winter and is one of two seniors this season along with Jami Deel, who also has become a key bowler.
Sophomore Grace McIllwain and freshman McKayla Pounds also have been key competitors for the Pacers, who were 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the COHSBC-A Division before a match against Westerville South on Dec. 18 at Colony/Penn Lanes.
"We're continuing to get better," coach Halstead said. "We had a lot of young experiences that we needed to get past, but it's getting better."
Both Cooke and Halstead are multi-sport athletes who don't consider bowling to be their best respective sport. Cooke also plays softball, while Halstead was a key defender for the girls soccer team this past fall.
After going 14-4 overall and finishing second in the COHSBC-A at 9-2 last season, the Pacers have set winning a league title as one of their goals this winter.
"Things are going well," Cooke said. "We have a good shot this year. Having the people around me to support me through everything has been the best thing for me. I've been around (Halstead) and she helps me with everything literally. When you're down, they just know how to get you up."
In a 1,934-1,597 win over Big Walnut on Dec. 3 at Capri Lanes, Halstead bowled a 406 two-game series and Cooke rolled a 384 series.
Delaware beat Olentangy Orange 1,831-1,606 on Dec. 13 at Colony/Penn Lanes, where Halstead says she "grew up" considering her father is in his 10th season leading the Pacers' program.
"It's going better (for me this season), but only because I used to have balls that hooked too much, so I had to get a ball that didn't hook as much," Halstead said. "Other than that, it's just been progressive steps with marks and individual pins."
Coach Halstead has been pleased with the growth of the boys team as well. The Pacers were 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the COHSBC-A before a match against Westerville South on Dec. 18 at Colony/Penn Lanes.
Talon Coffee, C.J. Deel and Brody Crowder have been the leading the Pacers.
"The girls jumped 200 pins and the boys jumped 200 pins from the first match to the second, so that's the improvement we've been looking for," coach Halstead said.
Girls basketball team coming together
The continued development of its underclassmen, combined with improving health, has the girls basketball team on the right track with the 2019 portion of its schedule winding down.
After losing to Dublin Scioto 56-36 on Dec. 10, the Pacers posted blowout wins over Thomas Worthington (58-34 on Dec. 13) and Buckeye Valley (55-34 on Dec. 16).
Delaware was 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before facing Worthington Kilbourne on Dec. 20 and will close out the 2019 portion of its schedule Saturday, Dec. 28, at home against Lancaster.
"We still don't have the depth that we need, but we feel like we're pretty solid one through seven," coach Lou Tiberi said.
Junior guard Alexis Amabile opened the season with a 26-point performance in a 76-31 victory over Central Crossing on Nov. 22 and was averaging 15 points through eight games.
Also through eight games, sophomore guard Chloe Jeffers was averaging 11.5 points and junior Alyssa Griner was averaging 11.
In addition to scoring by Amabile, Jeffers and Griner, the Pacers have been boosted by the return of junior post player Jordan Lantz, who missed the beginning of the season while recovering from a foot injury.
"Alyssa Griner is an athletic, inside player and is quick and a tough matchup for most players," Tiberi said. "Alexis Amabile is one of the better 3-point shooters in central Ohio. When Jordan Lantz is healthy, she's a real presence inside."
Boys basketball team seeks breakthrough
The boys basketball team was 0-5 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Kilbourne on Dec. 20.
Two of the Pacers' losses were by single digits, including a 49-48 loss to Hilliard Darby on Dec. 6.
In a 56-43 loss to Thomas Worthington on Dec. 13, Delaware was within 10 points entering the fourth quarter.
Paul Burris had 11 points and Nabil Abdus-salaam and Hezekiah Russell both scored eight against the Cardinals, who were a Division I district runner-up last season.
Burris was averaging 16.8 points through five games.
Below are the coming schedules for the Delaware Hayes boys basketball, girls basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
Dec. 23 -- At Licking Heights
Dec. 28 -- Home vs. Wadsworth
Dec. 28 -- Home vs. Lancaster
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 27 -- Olentangy at Ohio Wesleyan
Dec. 27-28 -- GMVWA Holiday Tournament at Vandalia Butler