Phoebe Anderson had just bowled her two best games of the season, back to back, and taken over the lead in average on the Olentangy girls bowling team when she admitted her freshman season is exceeding even her most optimistic expectations.
"I did not expect to do this well," Anderson said Jan. 22 after her 471 two-game series -- with games of 235 and 236 -- led the Braves to a 2,114-1,656 win over Orange at Delaware Lanes. "I haven't had to change my steps, but I've definitely had to work on my spare shooting. I've been working on keeping my backswing nice and straight so my shooting is more accurate. I was hoping I'd make a pretty immediate impact."
Anderson has done just that, helping the balanced Braves to three tournament victories entering last weekend and records of 9-2 overall, 8-1 in the COHSBC-A Division and 4-2 in the OCC-Buckeye entering a Friday, Jan. 31, match against Delaware.
The Braves' top five bowlers' averages were separated by just 21 pins through 10 matches. Anderson led the way with a 182.2, which ranked her sixth in the entire COHSBC as of Jan. 27, followed by Savannah Claar (176.4), Kristen Mullins (165.1), Hannah Lamar (164.9) and Katie Claar (161.2).
Mullins is the team's only senior. The Claar sisters and Lamar are sophomores.
"I didn't expect it to be like this," Mullins said. "We got better over the summer. We practiced a lot on our form and hitting our targets."
Olentangy began the season Nov. 23 with a score of 3,469 to win the 20-team Red and Blue Classic at HP Lanes, finishing 16 pins ahead of runner-up Logan. The Braves won two tournaments in consecutive days earlier this month, the Central District Preview on Jan. 18 at Palace Lanes and the Winter Shootout the next day at HP Lanes. They shot 5,175 and 4,146, respectively, in those tournaments.
While coach Jim Brehm said he knew what he had in the Claar sisters, Lamar and Mullins, he said Anderson and sophomore Alex Oberyszyn were relative unknowns. Oberyszyn bowled a 173 in her only game against Orange and was averaging 140.8 through nine games before Jan. 24.
"They're like a bunch of offensive linemen. They love to hang out together, they work hard and nobody cares who gets the credit," Brehm said. "I knew if I had a team with this mentality, they'd go far and they have."
Savannah Claar, who led the team in average before Anderson's performance Jan. 22, said the team has remained focused as their success has continued.
"I feel like my strength is being able to stay composed under pressure," she said. "I've been trying to improve my backswing and how I release because I've had trouble with that."
The boys team earned its first win Jan. 27, defeating Westerville North 2,074-1,901 at Delaware Lanes to improve to 1-10 overall, 1-9 in the COHSBC-A and 1-6 in the OCC-Buckeye.
That was the Braves' highest score of the season, edging their mark of 2,069 in a 126-pin loss to Marysville on Jan. 6.
Nathan Holycross had a team-leading 168.3 average through 10 matches.
"I wouldn't have dreamed that (2,000 score) was possible early in the year," Brehm said. "If they work hard at it in the offseason, there will be huge improvements."
Kurigers, Peroni lead swimmers at OCC meet
Martina Peroni of the girls swimming and diving team won the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 6.6 seconds) and 200 individual medley (2:05.98) in the OCC-Buckeye meet Jan. 25 at Kenyon College, leading the Braves to third place.
Cameron Kuriger won the 100 butterfly (57.81) and Anna McGrath finished first in the 200 freestyle (2:00.45) as Olentangy scored 296 points to finish behind Liberty (466) and Orange (312) and ahead of Westerville Central (295), Westerville North (284) and South (271).
McGrath also was second in the 500 free (5:25.23), Ciara Szerencsits was runner-up in diving (330.9) and Kuriger placed third in the 100 backstroke (1:02.34). The 200 medley relay was second (1:55.18) with Ellie Berry, Regan Kauderer, Kuriger and McGrath.
The boys team finished fourth (245) behind Liberty (688), North (315) and Orange (268) and ahead of South (175) and Central (173).
Preston Kuriger won the 100 back (54.31) and Chris Sabharwal finished first in the 500 free (5:04.35). Both were on the runner-up 200 medley relay (1:44.28) with Clay Edwardson and Max McAlister.
McAlister placed second in the 100 fly (54.7) and the 400 free relay was second (3:28.04) with Joseph Bulinski, Edwardson, Connor Kilrain and Nate Steele.
Gymnasts wrap up league schedule
The gymnastics team finishes OCC-Buckeye competition Friday, Jan. 30, against Liberty in a tri-meet at Orange, and although the Braves' chances for a fourth consecutive league championship are slim, coach Misty Lloyd-Matthews pointed to increasing team scores as a reliable sign of improvement.
Olentangy scored 131.15 points in its most recent meet, the seven-team Olentangy Invitational on Jan. 20, to finish 4.15 points behind first-place Berlin. Meg Morgan tied for first on uneven bars (8.8) and Ellie McIntyre was fourth in the all-around (33.85) to lead the Braves, who have steadily scored more points throughout the year. They had 119.9 points in their season-opening meet Dec. 6.
"From where we started with our team score and where we are now, the girls have just continued to get better," Lloyd-Matthews said. "We started with a 120 or so at the beginning and we went 131 (on Jan. 20). I could not be more pleased with their progress. The whole group is dedicated."
Olentangy is 1-2 in the OCC-Buckeye. The league meet is Feb. 11 at Hilliard Darby.
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, gymnastics, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 31 -- At Westerville Central. The Braves lost to the Warhawks 63-60 (2OT) on Dec. 20.
Feb. 4 -- At Hilliard Davidson
*Jan. 31 -- At Westerville Central. The Braves defeated the Warhawks 67-28 on Dec. 20.
Feb. 4 -- Home vs. Davidson
*Jan. 31 -- Delaware at Delaware Lanes
Jan. 30 -- At Orange with *Liberty
*Jan. 31 -- Dublin Jerome at Chiller North
*Feb. 1 -- Watterson at Chiller North
*Feb. 2 -- Cincinnati St. Xavier at SportsPlus Cincinnati
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 31 -- Berlin, Liberty and Orange at Ohio Wesleyan
*Jan. 30 -- At Westerville North
Feb. 1 -- Rieman Invitational at Delaware