Bowling: Groveport Madison Cruisers boys team keeps expectations high

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Groveport Madison junior Hunter Rathburn prepares to take a shot during practice Dec. 9 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl. Rathburn was the Cruisers' top scorer last year with a 184.7 average.

Groveport Madison bowling coach Christi Middendorf lamented some of the difficulties of an extended preseason. 

Among those are a lack of busing in the district that has led to some athletes having problems getting to practice and protocols associated with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, such as regular temperature checks and maintaining proper social distancing.

The fourth-year coach anticipates another challenge once the season begins, albeit one she embraces.

“I will have a lot of decisions to make,” Middendorf said of having 12 boys on the roster, some of whom competed for an undefeated junior varsity team last season. “The boys I have are going to be strong.

"Some of the teams last year that were strong lost a lot of their bowlers. We lost a lot too, but we had an undefeated j.v. team. We should be very, very competitive, if we ever get to start bowling.”

Competition has been suspended in the district through December.

Christi Middendorf talks with members of the boys bowling team Dec. 9. Middendorf is entering her fourth season as coach.

Junior Hunter Rathburn returns to lead the boys squad after averaging a team-best 184.7 last season for team that went 12-3 overall, 9-3 in the COHSBC-B Division and 5-2 in the OCC-Cardinal before finishing 16th in the Division I district tournament. The Cruisers graduated their second through fifth scorers.

Senior Jeremiah DeLong and junior Mitchell Ashburn also are back after seeing limited varsity time last year. According to Middendorf, seniors John Blanton, Bradley Campbell, Brandon Cordle and Jamell Mitchell and junior John Maynard will vie for the other spots.

Freshman Jaden Mitchell also could see time.

“These guys are capable of replacing the guys we lost,” Rathburn said. “I’ve worked on my spares, a lot of technique and timing. I feel like I am very confident in myself, like I have improved a lot.

"Timing and slowing down my steps a lot has been key. You have to be confident as well. You can't go in and say you'll miss a shot. You have to go in thinking you'll make it.”

Junior Suzie Francis’ 123.2 average led the girls team as it finished 2-12 overall, 2-8 in the COHSBC-B and 1-6 in the OCC-Cardinal. Also back are seniors Kayla Sheets (109.9) and Makayla Harold (107.6) and junior Ellisia Little (107.5).

Junior Leah Sporleder also should contribute.

Francis said she hopes to average at least 170, a considerable jump from last season when she still was overcoming a stress fracture. As a freshman, Francis pulled muscles in her stomach that led to the dislocation of the growth plate off her left hip.

“I got into a slump sophomore year. Freshman year was solid scoring-wise, but I’ve been consistently scoring higher than 150 lately,” said Francis, who averaged 121.6 as a freshman with six games of 130 or higher but had five games below 100 a season ago. “I just keep going up and so does my team. If that keeps happening, we'll be fine.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

•Coach: Christi Middendorf, fourth season

•Top athletes: Boys – Mitchell Ashburn, Jeremiah DeLong, John Maynard and Hunter Rathburn; Girls – Suzie Francis, Makayla Harold, Ellisia Little and Kayla Sheets

•Key losses: Boys – Jake Benline, William Lawson, Jeremiah Slonaker and Austin Snyder; Girls – Jessica Clayton and Amanda Comehn

•Last season: Boys – 12-3 overall; Girls – 2-12 overall

•2019-20 finishes: Boys – Tied for second in the COHSBC-B, tied for second in the OCC-Cardinal, 16th at sectional, 16th at district; Girls – Tied for 10th in the COHSBC-B, seventh in the OCC-Cardinal, 29th at sectional