Every Groveport Madison boys bowling practice doubles as a tournament to see who will be crowned "king of the throne," if only for a day.
In describing the tournament, senior Jake Benline said he thought that is why the Cruisers' lineup not only has been competitive but balanced as they already have doubled their win total from last season and entered the week seeking the program's best regular season in three years.
"We just come out, bowl our game and get results. That's all we do," Benline said. "(Our balance) is very impressive. We challenge each other in practice all the time with our step-ladder tournament. We play each other and whoever wins the entire tournament has bragging rights for the day. The next day, we do it all over again.
"But honestly, no, I'm not sure we thought we'd have this good a record right now. It's been a fun season so far."
With its top five bowlers' averages separated by only 11.6 pins through 13 matches, Groveport was 11-3 overall, 9-3 in the COHSBC-B Division and 4-2 in the OCC-Cardinal before its final regular-season match Jan. 28 against Delaware.
Both of the Cruisers' matches this week were at their home facility, Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, which also is the site of the Division I and II boys and girls state tournaments.
Hunter Rathburn's 181 average through 13 matches led the Cruisers, ahead of Austin Snyder (180.9), William Lawson (177.8), Benline (172.5) and Jeremiah Slonaker (169.4).
Snyder had been the team's leading scorer five times entering the week, ahead of three each from Lawson and Rathburn.
Groveport went 5-6 overall last season.
"If we use our talent on a daily basis, that's what really matters," Rathburn said. "We're getting better with our spares. I've seen that improve during the day. We've been strong in our Baker games, too, because we can connect strikes and make our spares, which allows us to get really high scores."
Groveport's average Baker game score before Jan. 27 was 181.7, seventh-best in the 49-team COHSBC.
Although the girls team was just 2-11 overall, 2-9 in the COHSBC-B and 1-5 in the OCC-Cardinal before a match against Delaware on Jan. 28, their lineup was almost as competitive as that of the boys. Amanda Clayton's team-leading 126.3 average was followed by Suzie Francis (126.2), Amanda Comehn (118.5), Kayla Sheets (110.8), Ellisia Little (106.8) and Makayla Harold (105.6).
"I've had my good games and so have my teammates. Our averages are where they should be and we are in a good place," Francis said. "Our Baker games have been outstanding, for the most part (with an average score of 120.7). They're probably our best thing. It's a really good team chemistry.
"Mostly during practice, we get to know each other and try to help each other figure out what we're doing wrong instead of depending on a coach. We can depend on each other. When your teammate knows what you need to do, it's perfect for you."
Newsom leads swim teams at league meet
Madison Newsom finished second in the 500-yard freestyle (5 minutes, 37.98 seconds) and third in the 50 free (26.44) and helped the 200-yard medley relay to first place (2:02.18) in the OCC-Capital meet Jan. 25 at Kenyon College.
Sydney Chandler, Gabby Monjaras and Jazlyn Winski rounded out the winning relay as Groveport finished fourth (253.5 points) behind New Albany (616), Big Walnut (363.5) and Canal Winchester (317) and ahead of Newark (218).
Chandler, Monjaras, Newsom and Winski also comprised the runner-up 200 free relay (1:52.57).
Chandler finished fourth in the 100 butterfly (1:06.1) and fifth in the 200 free (2:14.52) and the 400 free relay of Trinity Gullatt, Katelyn Kirk, Laney Michael and Nicole Mohler was fourth (4:54.93).
The boys team finished fifth (77) in the league meet behind New Albany (596.5), Big Walnut (496.5), Canal Winchester (295) and Newark (142).
Trevor Keane placed fourth in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.75) and the 400 free relay of Jaydan Henderson, Jaydan Jackson, Isaiah Rogers and Isaac Welsh also was fourth (6:46.4).
New Albany swept the league titles for the fifth consecutive year.
Wrestlers still in position for title
The wrestling team enters its Thursday, Jan. 30, OCC-Capital match at New Albany coming off only its second league loss in four seasons.
Groveport lost 34-30 at Big Walnut on Jan. 23 to fall one match behind the first-place Golden Eagles (3-0) with two to go. The Cruisers are tied for second in the league with Newark at 2-1, a match ahead of Canal Winchester and New Albany at 1-2.
Groveport is 16-2 in OCC-Capital competition since the start of the 2016-17 season.
The Cruisers got two first-place finishes Jan. 25 in the McDonald's/Miami Trace Invitational at Washington Court House Miami Trace, when Makarius Mosley won the heavyweight title and Jake Nelson won the 220-pound championship. In their respective finals, Mosley pinned Miami Trace's Grant DeBruin in 29 seconds and Nelson edged Cincinnati Wyoming's Onyx Mendenhall 11-9.
Groveport scored 75 points to finish 14th of 17 teams behind the host Panthers (236).
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 31 -- Home vs. New Albany. The Cruisers lost to the Eagles 65-57 in overtime on Dec. 20.
Feb. 4 -- Home vs. Lancaster
*Jan. 31 -- At New Albany. The Cruisers lost to the Eagles 40-23 on Dec. 20.
Feb. 4 -- At Lancaster
*Jan. 30 -- At New Albany