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John Beagle View Drop Down
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Joined: Apr 23 2007
Location: Middletown
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    Posted: Jan 06 2012 at 3:29pm
By Rick Cassano, Staff Writer
Updated 12:06 PM Friday, January 6, 2012
MIDDLETOWN — Bowling season could turn out to be something special at Middletown High School.
It’s been pretty strong thus far, with the girls squad undefeated and the boys team suffering just one defeat.
“They’ve got a lot of talent,” Middies coach Nelson Hurte said Thursday afternoon during practice at Eastern Lanes. “They don’t realize how much talent they could have.”
Hurte is in his ninth season at the Middletown helm. He was there when the program began and now focuses on the boys team, while 21-year-old Kathryn Cox coaches the girls.
At this point, both teams are savoring their Greater Miami Conference success. The girls are 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the GMC — Fairfield is the only other unbeaten squad in conference play.
“The girls are actually starting to jell together as a team,” Cox said. “As long as we all work together, I don’t really see too many problems coming. Our hardest match is going to be Fairfield.”
On the boys side, the Middies are 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the GMC. Three other schools have one conference loss: Oak Hills, Lakota West and Fairfield.
Both Middletown teams will be on the road today, facing Hamilton at Columbia Lanes.
“The girls team is really young, so I think Kathryn is very pleasantly surprised,” Hurte said. “I expected the boys to be this good, if not actually a little bit better. We’ve had a little stumble in the middle, but I look for us to pick it up as we start league play again.”
The MHS girls have won with consistency and balance. There’s not a huge difference between their top five bowlers.
Junior Taylor Harris leads the way with a 175.0 average. She’s followed by seniors Bronte Woodlan (167.2) and Brittany Blankenship (166.0), sophomore Jacey McIntosh (157.6), and freshmen Abbie Cochran (157.0) and Makayla Rinehart (144.8)
“I love my girls, and we’re doing great,” Harris said. “I’m really proud of all of them. I feel like we’re just going to keep climbing.”
She said the team has a good support system. The younger players have meshed with the veterans, helping the Middies finish second in last week’s Eastern Lanes Holiday Tournament.
“Last year we weren’t doing so good in the GMC, so it’s pretty awesome to see that we’re beating everybody now,” Harris said. “The key is to support each other and never let one bad game or one bad frame get to you. Just shake it off. Your teammates always have your back.”
It’s not a particularly vocal group, but Cox is trying to change that. She knows a little bit about winning.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association began sanctioning state tournaments in 2006-07, Cox’s sophomore season at Beavercreek. The Beavers won the state championship that year and also advanced to state in her last two seasons.
“We’ve worked on a few cheers, bringing some things down from Dayton that I used to do when I bowled in high school,” Cox said. “We’re starting to pep up the team instead of just standing there and watching someone strike and just giving them a high five when they come back. The problem with being stoic out there is if someone has a bad ball, they’re already quiet, so they all just get down on themselves so fast.”
Harris is trying to be more vocal — “I’m not afraid to be loud. Hey, why not?” she said — but pointed to Blankenship as the team’s emotional leader.
Middletown is eyeing its showdown against Fairfield at Fairfield Lanes on Feb. 6. That will be Harris’ 17th birthday.
The balance that has buoyed the Middie girls is also helping Middletown’s boys. Senior Dakota Wood’s 213.8 average ranks first, and he is followed by senior Dustin Turner (209.0), freshman Nick Deaton (206.2), senior Tyler O’Dell (204.9), senior Elijah Wilhelm (193.8), junior Sam Toth (187.3) and senior August Conner (175.2).
“If they would do this year-round, they could be one of the best teams in the state,” said Hurte, noting that only a couple Middies follow that advice. “Now they’re one of those teams that if they have their day, they’re going to be really good.
“They can do it — it’s just a matter of doing it,” he continued. “It’s like anything you do. Practice, practice, practice. It’s all muscle memory. Once the mind is no longer involved and it’s all just repetition, that’s when you bowl well. When you think, you get in trouble.
“One thing about a bad shot in bowling: You can’t bring it back,” Hurte added. “You don’t get a mulligan. You’re stuck with it, so let it go out of your mind and focus on the next shot because that’s all you can do.”
Middletown’s loss came Dec. 8, a 2,857-2,643 setback at the hands of Oak Hills.
Wood said the Middies have been a good Baker team in part because of camaraderie.
“I think it does make a difference,” Wood said. “It’s a fun team. We know we’re good, but I think we can do a lot better.”
Middletown has only had two state qualifiers since the OHSAA started sponsoring bowling: Jordan Mack for the boys in 2008-09 (23rd place) and Samantha Watson for the girls in 2009-10 (10th place).
In the GMC, the Middies have never been champions on the boys side. Middletown’s girls won their lone title in 2009-10, sharing the crown with Princeton.
Contact this 
reporter at (513) 820-2194 or rcassano@coxohio.com.
John Beagle
Middletown USA
News of, for and by the people of Middletown, Ohio.
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