Perfect Pioneers prepare for postseason

By Chris Miles

February 14, 2014

Perfect games in bowling are rare and far between at the high school level, well that is if you’re competing for any school other than Jonathan Alder.

In an eight-day span in the last two weeks, a pair of Pioneers boy bowlers rolled perfect 300 games, a feat no other high school bowler in all of Central Ohio has accomplished this entire season.

So was it a coincidence? The dynamic duo of Nathan Yoder and Nathan Whiting think it’s a combination of preparation, good luck and friendly competition. They insist the competitive environment which they practice and prepare in helps them reach such lofty heights.

“Watching Yoder throw was amazing,” Whiting said of the first perfect game thrown at Plain City Lanes on Jan. 31. “I couldn’t believe how crazy it was. I was thinking to myself I’ve got to do that someday.

“I worked on my game a little bit and eight days later I found myself in the same situation. It’s just crazy, two guys from one team doing it eight days apart when nobody else in the area has done it.”

The fact that not just one but two of his bowlers were able to put together perfect rounds actually didn’t come as a complete surprise to Alder coach Rusty Walter as he’s watched the pair get better and better over the years.

“Whiting and Yoder have been bowling together since they were about 9 and 10 years old, in youth leagues and summer leagues,” Walter said. “They are very, very competitive with each other and they push each other to get better and to perform better. The team needs both boys to be at their best physically and even more mentally for the team to reach the goals they want, to bowl in the state championships.”

While their career-best games are identical, the way each went upon doing so is drastically different.

“They work hard, practice a lot and are dedicated to the game bowling,” Walter said. “They are very good athletes and gifted bowlers with extremely different styles and physical games.

“Yoder has a huge back swing with a smooth but powerful release that makes bowling balls and pins do crazy things, sometimes to the point of penalty for leaving incredible single pins. Whiting is ultra-smooth, very accurate, a very good spare shooter and will bowl all day long. His style and form enable him to just beat you down.”

Nathan Yoder had taken a perfect game to his final ball once before and ended with a 297. So finding himself in the pressure-packed situation in a dual against Delaware Hayes was a little bit easier to deal with.

“There’s pressure for sure, but we put pressure on each other in practice and we compete against each other all the time,” Yoder said.

Whiting’s encounter with the magic number 300 came at the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference championship tournament at Blue Fusion Lanes in Marion on Feb. 7. His perfect game allowed him to walk away with the individual league championship and a 727 series, edging past his perfect partner for the title.

“It was unbelievable to watch Yoder throw his,” Whiting said. “People just stopped what they were doing and started watching him. I started to realize after I had thrown six or seven, more and more people were watching me.

“You know after I got past the ninth ball, all the pressure kind of went away. I’ve got to give credit to our coaches and what we do in practice. We push each other and are ready for those types of situations.”

It was only fitting that the very first person to greet Whiting following his brush with perfection was his teammate Yoder.

“I just stood there on the lane for a second,” Whiting said. “That place was so loud. I turned and gave Yoder a big hug. We both did it. It’s unreal.”

Walter said he saw something different in Whiting after watching Yoder accomplish the achievement.

“While Whiting was excited that Yoder tossed 300 first, he was a little setback by it,” the coach said. “Both of the boys wanted to be the first one to throw 300 in competition for Jonathan Alder. After a good week of practice and even bowling in the dark at 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Whiting got his chance at Marion and finished it with three great shots in the 10th.

“Yoder was the first to hug him as the team, parents and crowd went crazy. Now it’s time for them to lead the team, be the solid players they are the next two weeks, to earn that berth in the state tournament.”

The Pioneers are prepping for the upcoming Division II sectional tournament on Saturday, Feb. 15, at AMF Sawmill Lanes in Columbus. They hope to advance from there to the district at HP Lanes in Columbus on Saturday, Feb. 22 and onto the state championship a week after that.

Both bowlers are beaming with confidence and believe the perfect games will help them in their quest to reach the state tournament.

“Being able to go out there and throw a 300 gives you a lot of confidence,” Yoder said. “When you have two guys on the same team that have both thrown perfect games, we know other teams are looking at us.”

“It gives us a lot of confidence going into tournaments because we know we can have big games and big series,” Whiting said.

The Pioneers boys averages entering the postseason include identical marks for Whiting (207), and Yoder (207), followed by Dave Adkins (190), Sawyer Fleming (180), Broderick Besinger (177), Nathan Sullivan (167) and Chase Maxwell (155).

A pair of individuals on the girls side have a strong chance of qualifying for the district, including Mackenzie Heimlich (198 average) and Kaylee Griest (143).

Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.