Members of the Olentangy girls bowling team received a welcome that made them feel at home during their first Division I state tournament March 7 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl.
"When all the teams were being introduced, the tournament manager, Greg (Coulles), said, 'And the powerhouse from Lewis Center, the Olentangy Braves,'" coach Jim Brehm said. "The girls and I just looked at each other as if to say, 'Did he just say that?,' and we all started laughing. Maybe it relaxed us a little bit."
Although the Braves didn't get quite the finish they wanted to cap an historic season for the program, ultimately they ended up as among the best teams in both the district and the state.
Led by sophomore Hannah Lamar, who rolled a 562 three-game series to tie for 21st of 103 bowlers, Olentangy finished 12th (2,905) of 16 teams in the qualifying round behind first-place Springfield (3,340).
Gahanna went on to win its second championship in three seasons.
Sophomore Savannah Claar was 47th (513) for Olentangy, followed by freshman Phoebe Anderson (54th, 487), senior Kristen Mullins (67th, 465) and sophomores Katie Claar (98th, 157) and Alex Oberyszyn (102nd, 134).
The Braves bowled an 802 in their first game, followed by rounds of 859 and 752. They scored 159, 167 and 166 in their three Baker games.
"We were thrilled to be there. It was a fun experience," Lamar said. "I got to the point where I was really focused on making my spares because I knew that would really contribute to my score and the team's score. Everybody was supportive and encouraging and Savannah and I were having a friendly competition as well to see who'd lead the team."
Mullins said a state appearance became more realistic once the Braves won three tournaments during the regular season and were competitive against Gahanna and one of the district's other state-qualifying teams, Westerville Central. Delaware also competed at state.
"At the beginning of the season with how well we bowled in general, I figured we would get to district, but we didn't expect state," Mullins said. "Once we won a few tournaments, we felt pretty confident that we could do it. We saw a lot of tough teams and we did well against them."
Olentangy went 13-2 overall during the regular season, 9-1 in the COHSBC-A Division and 5-1 in the OCC-Buckeye. The Braves finished third (3,305) of 16 teams at district Feb. 29 at HP Lanes behind champion Central (3,599), and Savannah Claar was district runner-up with a 578.
Anderson had a team-best 181.5 average, ahead of Savannah Claar (174.9), Mullins (165.9), Lamar (163.5), Katie Claar (161.5) and Oberyszyn (140.9).
All of the boys team is eligible to return after a tough season in which it went 2-14 overall, 1-10 in the COHSBC-A and 1-6 in the OCC-Buckeye.
Sophomore Nathan Holycross' 170.0 average led Olentangy, ahead of juniors Nick Wilson (158.7) and Derek Rather (151.9) and sophomore Kai Whitacre (146.5). Twelve bowlers saw varsity time for the Braves this season.
"When we started, only one of our guys (Holycross) had a ball that fit when he showed up," Brehm said. "The boys worked just as hard as the girls; they just didn't have the experience. I told them they just have to keep after it. I really couldn't have asked for a better bunch of kids this season, boys and girls both."
Wrestling season ends at district
The wrestling team's season came to an end March 7 when none of its five competitors advanced beyond the Division I district tournament at Hilliard Darby.
Juniors Ethan Hand (heavyweight) and Jackson Moses (132 pounds) and sophomore Gabe Bulugaris (113) all went 1-2, and junior Ben Hall (138) and sophomore Vaughn Fowler (120) both finished 0-2.
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state, which runs Friday, March 13, through Sunday, March 15, at Ohio State.
Olentangy scored six points and tied Marion Harding for 34th at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (174.5) as 40 teams scored.
Hand, who won a sectional championship Feb. 29 at Watkins Memorial, led the team in wins with a 30-11 record. Hall finished 24-19 and Bulugaris went 23-19.
The Braves went 0-5 in the OCC-Buckeye to finish sixth behind champion Westerville North (5-0).
Also eligible to return is sophomore Zachary Neville (106).