What began as a way to be a part of a team has made Whitney Wilson into a Medina County power.
The senior came to the Cloverleaf girls bowling team looking for camaraderie and competition. What she found was a love affair with the lanes.
“It was something about going to a school and being able to bowl with people that go to the same high school,” Wilson said. “It’s different, but then once I got into it, it was absolutely wild how varied bowling can be.
“If you know anything about bowling, it’s not just about throwing a ball at pins. You add oil. There are different balls. There’s your approach. There’s all these different factors, and it can totally change your game.”
Part of the team since it became a varsity sport, Wilson has pushed herself to new heights.
As a sophomore, she averaged 122.0 with a 226 high game and 363 two-game series. Last season, that average jumped up to 158.0 with a 214 high game and 417 series.
She enters the third week of her senior season with a 178.0 average, 221 high game and 400 series.
To better understand that, it’s not uncommon to see a bowler’s average in high school jump about six pins from season to season. To see Wilson rise 56 in two seasons is incredible.
“She’s put a lot into the sport,” Cloverleaf coach Dennis Huffman said. “She really wants to learn, so she’s really good at taking tips, and that’s really important to me. If they’re willing to listen and want to learn, you can really help them out. She has a really solid, good game. Most of what I do is keep her timing in. If I see her start to get a little fast with her feet, I point it out.
“To me, the thing I love about coaching is helping the kids. If they want to learn — and that’s been the great part about these kids because I’ve been helping them for years — they’re like sponges. They listen to everything, and you can really help their game. I’ve been in the bowling business for over 40 years, so I’ve got lots of bowling knowledge. It’s been a lot of fun helping them because they want to learn.”
With Wilson, it isn’t just the tips from Huffman, who owns Strike & Spare Lanes in Lodi, as she heads to clinics to tune her game. She estimates she rolls six to seven hours a week outside of competition and practice with the Colts.
It’s not only about getting better. It’s about learning what turns a good bowler into a great bowler.
“I really put a lot into it,” Wilson said. “My first year, I had just started and I didn’t understand how deep bowling was, how drastically different it can be between lanes and oil and balls. I just really started going to tournaments on my own during the offseason, and I found out that they can put down special oil patterns. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ They can make it harder. I started bowling a lot more. I’m a senior this year. I really want to go out with a bang, so I really got into it.”
Being among the elite has Wilson dialed in this season. It’s as much the drive to succeed as it is putting Cloverleaf atop a very tough Portage Trail Conference.
Her understanding of the mechanics has made her a leader, and her attitude has been infectious.
“The girls want to know what they’re doing wrong,” Huffman said. “They listen when you talk and the game comes right back alive. That’s rewarding in itself.”