XENIA — Girls bowling at Xenia High School is in the midst of a program resurgence.
After winning just five matches two years ago, the Buccaneers jumped to 12-5 last season — including an 11-3 record in the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s American South Division — and are 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the GWOC this season heading into the Dec. 28 Eastern Lanes Holiday Tournament.
The Bucs are currently 10th in the 20-team GWOC with an 846.8 team average after finishing 12th last year and 16th of 18 teams the year before.
And it should come as no surprise that Xenia’s sudden turnaround has coincided with the meteoric rise of its top three bowlers — juniors Kailee Palecek and Gillian Miller, and sophomore Caity Moody.
Palecek sits 10th in the GWOC with a hefty 197.2 average and a game of 257. Moody — fully recovered from a torn ACL suffered in January — is 18th with a 188.3 average and a 257 game to her credit, and Miller has been steady with a 161.5 average and a 213 high game. Senior Kelly Fullen — who typically leads off the Baker game — and freshman Kelsey Rose, along with junior subs Shayna Caraway and Briana Salazer round out the varsity roster.
“We continue improving and they continue to be thirsty for success,” Coach Robert Rose said. “When you have two girls that are going to throw right around 200 … that’s a great place to start. The best is yet to come.”
Palecek is the veteran of the trio in her third year on varsity. She averaged 182.4 last year with one match over 200. Moody was a tick over 190 last year, while Miller was at 128.1 in 14 games last season.
All three say off-season work has made the difference.
“Just practicing more and just working on it,” Palecek said. “I got a new ball. Just worked on what I needed to work on … my form.”
Miller and Palecek bowled in weekend leagues in the off-season and also took part in a survivor league at Beaver-Vu in Beavercreek, where Wright State University coaches monitored the action.
“The coaches were nice. They help you and it’s very competitive,” Miller said. “Everyone bowls different. Watching (other bowlers) helped a lot. It was amazing to see how different that people bowl.”
Miller also learned the mental aspect of the game.
“If you have your mind in the right state, it helps a lot,” she said.
Moody, perhaps, has been the most impressive in terms of improvement and scoring. She injured her knee playing indoor softball but was able to finish the bowling season using a one-step approach instead of a multi-step approach. As a result, her scores suffered at times. But after doing rehab at the high school with former trainers Becca Chamberlin and Nick Zincer — and returning to a more-comfortable approach — Moody is back to her old self.
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to bowl again,” she said. “It really made me upset because I wasn’t doing what I love to do. I was genuinely super excited (to begin the season). I feel a lot more confident in myself.”
Added Rose, “She’s pretty much picked up where she left off.”
In addition to becoming better bowlers, there is a special bond forming amongst the teammates. As Moody was talking about her injury, Miller reached out to give her a hug several times.
“Before bowling I never really talked to them,” Moody said. “It was funny how many friends I made during bowling.”
Rose said that there’s no infighting when someone is benched for a game.
“They work with each other,” he said. “It’s a very positive attitude.”
All three bowlers, along with Rose, credited assistant coaches A.J. Johnson and Ryan Barringer for helping the team improve as well.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.
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