Bowling balls and golf balls have little in common, but as far as Shannan Ireland is concerned, the games are more alike than they might appear on first glance.
The New Albany senior helped the girls golf team to undefeated Division I state championships the past two seasons and will compete at Ohio Dominican. With those goals achieved, Ireland finally did something she'd planned to do since she was a sophomore -- join the girls bowling team.
Ireland has been every bit as successful as she hoped, averaging 144.2 pins per game through five matches to help the Eagles to records of 3-2 overall and in the COSHBC-A Division and 2-2 in the OCC-Buckeye before a Jan. 14 match against Westerville North.
"I'd been on another state championship team and I'd signed (in November to play golf in college) already so I figured why not try it?" Ireland said. "I went bowling when I was a kid for fun with my family and I was terrible at it. It's kind of like golf in that it's a sport where you're sort of by yourself. If you bowl bad, that's on you. If you golf poorly, that's on you. It was another sport to do ... where I can rely on myself more. If I do bad, it's on me, not the team."
Ireland's average was third on the Eagles behind Jada Biller's 167.8 and Codey Mockler's 151.7 entering the week. Ireland bowled a 220 in a practice round but her best competitive game and series of 210 and 370, respectively, came Jan. 7 during a 2,045-1,751 loss to Westerville Central.
"She's very coachable and was able to pick things up pretty quickly," coach Jess Biller said. "She listens. She learns. She applies what we tell her and it's showing with that average. She is a competitor, she likes to get better and she works hard at getting better.
"It's a case of more repetitions, more accuracy with her. She is learning to make adjustments within the game and is getting more accurate. Those are two huge keys to this game."
Ireland wanted to bowl as a sophomore but did not. Surgery after golf season kept her sidelined as a junior.
Ireland rolled a 310 series in her first match of the season, a 1,615-1,297 win over Marysville on Dec. 4, and attributed her increase in scores to picking up spares.
"Spares are just like putting," she said. "They're important and you need to work on that consistently. We all hope for a strike but you're not always going to get a strike, so picking up those spares is a huge help. Working on the pins you'll likely leave (on a first shot) helps so much."
The boys team was 3-2 overall and in the COHSBC-A and 3-1 in the OCC-Buckeye before Jan. 14. Grant Kresina's 191.8 average led New Albany, just ahead of Elliot Greer (191.3).
Ireland admits she is more relaxed in bowling than in golf, where a loaded lineup led by state tournament medalist Anna Ritter saw the top three competitors average 73.19 or lower on the season.
"I have high expectations for myself no matter what I do," Ireland said. "(Bowling) is not as competitive, but (my teammates) push me in every way. Having them there to push me and support me is tremendous. I've had my fair share of bad games, but the girls always remind me it's OK."
Wrestlers win league opener
The wrestling team will try for a 2-0 start to OCC-Capital competition Thursday, Jan. 16, at home against Newark.
New Albany began its league schedule Jan. 9 with a 48-24 win at Franklin Heights. Two days later in the Comet Classic at Central Crossing, Colin Swincicki and Michael Zusman each earned top-four finishes for the third consecutive week.
Zusman was first at 152 pounds and Swincicki third at 120 in the West Jefferson Invitational Tournament that concluded Dec. 28. Seven days later in the Kevin Cleveland Memorial Tournament at Dublin Scioto, Zusman was runner-up at 152, losing to the Irish's Daniel Segura 20-4 in the final, and Swincicki placed fourth at 120.
At Central Crossing, Swincicki and Zusman earned runner-up finishes and the Eagles finished 10th (104 points) of 18 teams behind champion Versailles (213).
"Right now, I think we're wrestling the best we can. It's all leading up to later in the year anyway," coach Larry Reichard said. "I see the guys picking things up each match and carrying those lessons into their next matches. We've had a lot of guys contributing."
Girls swimmers win Northeast Classic
Four first-place finishes and an especially strong performance in the 100-yard freestyle led the girls swimming and diving team to 311.5 points and first place in the 44-team Northeast Classic on Jan. 11 at Branin Natatorium in Canton, 94.5 points ahead of runner-up Gates Mills Hawken.
The 200 free relay (1 minute, 36.32 seconds), 200 medley relay (1:44.05) and 400 free relay (3:27.46) all won and Ava Lachey was first in the 100 free (50.97). She was closely followed by Mia Lachey (second, 51.34), Carly Meeting (third, 51.4), Lexi Elkovitch (sixth, 53.06) and Sydney Boals (seventh, 53.19). Boals also was second in the 200 individual medley (2:04.74).
Boys divers Noah Duperre (516.05) and Jordan Rzepka (511.5) finished first and second, respectively, to lead New Albany to 154 points and fourth of 42 teams as St. Charles won (195). Patrick Daly was second in the 200 IM (1:53.63) and Jimmy Lapsley was runner-up in the 100 backstroke (51.27).
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 17 -- At Newark. The Eagles lost to the Wildcats 69-55 on Dec. 6.
Jan. 21 -- Home vs. Gahanna
*Jan. 17 -- Home vs. Newark. The Eagles lost to the Wildcats 54-24 on Dec. 6.
Jan. 18 -- At Logan
Jan. 21 -- At Gahanna
Jan. 17-19 -- Meadville Bulldog Invitational Tournament at Meadville (Pa.) Area Recreation Complex
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 16 -- Home vs. Dublin Jerome
*Jan. 16 -- Home vs. Newark
Jan. 18 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North