November 27, 2014

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High school bowling: Amherst’s Courtney Thompson keeps rolling along, thanks to help from her coach and grandfather

Courtney Thompson, of Amherst, has been one of the area's top bowlers for the past three years. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

Courtney Thompson, of Amherst, has been one of the area’s top bowlers for the past three years. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

Like father like son, like mother like daughter, like grandfather like granddaughter.

Senior Courtney Thompson has an ace in her corner as does the Amherst girls bowling team. Perry Keplinger, Thompson’s grandfather, is in his sixth year as the Comets’ coach.

So far, so good.

Amherst is riding quite a streak, having made it to four straight district tournaments. The Comets are poised to make it five in a row as they try to win back the North Shore Bowling Conference title for Division 1.

“He’s always been my coach since I was 6,” Thompson said. “He taught me how to bowl and has been there for most every competition, every tournament and every league that I bowl. He’s always there to help me out along with everyone else.”

Thompson has a lot to do with the Comets’ success, too.

Courtney Thompson is coached by her grandfather, Perry Keplinger.

Courtney Thompson is coached by her grandfather, Perry Keplinger.

She’s led Amherst in average each of the past two years. Last year she averaged 191, up from the 189 she had as a sophomore. She ranked No. 4 in the NSBC each of the last two years. Thompson averaged 167 her freshman year.

“Courtney’s very driven and very competitive in not only bowling but in softball or any other sports that she does,” Keplinger said. “She just plays hard to win. She’s a willing listener, unlike some kids. I’ve had other parents tell me that anybody can talk to my kid except me because he won’t listen to his dad or he won’t listen to his uncle or grandpa, but he’ll listen to a perfect stranger.

“Courtney’s not that way. She takes advice very well and takes it to heart. If I want her to try something new she’s very willing to work at it until she perfect it.”

Thompson admires her grandpa’s coaching ability.

“He’s very helpful. When somebody needs it he’ll give advice,” Thompson said. “Sometimes people don’t choose to listen, but he always gives it to us. It’s always nice to be able to have somebody there that knows what they’re doing. That’s why it’s nice that we’re a club sport. If we were a varsity sport they’d offer the coaching job to teachers. Teachers may not have as good an idea as my grandfather does. He knows a lot about how I bowl and what might benefit me so he knows exactly how to help me when I’m struggling.”

Keplinger, a 1963 graduate of Oberlin High, has bowled nearly his entire life.

“One thing that Courtney has in her favor is that she comes from a huge bowling family,” Keplinger, 68, said. “My dad (Denver “Denny” Keplinger) was a pretty good bowler and he got me started when I was 6. Both of my daughters, Courtney’s mom, Sherri, and Kristi, her aunt, are both bowlers.”

Thompson plans to continue bowling in college. She is leaning heavily toward attending Notre Dame College where her sister, Kayla, is a sophomore on the bowling team.

“We’re working on learning different shots, not throwing the ball quite so hard and play more of a finesse game,” Keplinger said. “That’s required when you get to college. They bowl more difficult lane conditions. We’re prepping for that, but with hope that it also helps her this year.”

Thompson agrees with her grandfather’s assessment.

“I throw the ball a lot harder than a lot of girls,” Thompson said. “My grandpa tries teaching me things like standing in the middle, using the inside part of the lane and slowing my shot down. The idea is that when I get to districts I can bowl on the shot more. He tries to help me when I’m coming over the top of the ball too much or when I’m not following through.

“I’ve bowled in a few tournaments since the end of the high school season. I just bowled in the Lorain City Tournament. I’ve been practicing a lot in my spare time and bowling in my league Saturdays. I’m learning more different shots on the lane to help me with districts when we get there. I hope to be carrying a higher average this season.”

North Olmsted derailed Amherst’s two-year reign in the NSBC last year. Both programs graduated key bowlers, but remain the leading contenders with enough top-flight talent again this year.

“We have a good freshman that should help a lot,” Thompson said. “I would say it’s going to put a fright to the other teams. I think we’ll be keeping a good winning streak.”

Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.