Paving new lanes: Impactful senior class leads bowling to historic season

Mason’s varsity bowlers (from left to right) Aiden Hunt, Jack Riley, Ogden Nijakowski, Timmy Hollenbeck, Jake Price, Kyle Brackenridge, Josh Steffen, and Caden Graham celebrate winning the team’s fifth consecutive Greater Miami Conference championship.

Sean Speidel | The Chronicle

After a dominant season and the highest state finish in school history, the experienced Mason boys bowling seniors are leaving behind a distinguished legacy

Riding an experienced varsity team consisting of seven seniors and one junior, the team found constant success on the lanes this year. With five bowlers, all seniors, averaging scores above 200 the team notched their first-ever undefeated regular season and a fourth-place finish at state. Senior Aiden Hunt said that their experience playing together allowed them to build up to their best-ever finish at state as seniors.

“We know everybody’s strengths and weaknesses,” Hunt said. “We know how to play to those strengths and know who should go when there’s a certain shot to throw at.”

After playing together for so long, many of the bowlers have grown long-lasting friendships with each other. Seniors Ogden Nijakowski, Caden Graham, Aiden Hunt, and Jack Riley will all continue to bowl together in college for Wright State University, and Timmy Hollenbeck will be playing on its golf team. Ogden Nijakowski said that the friendships the team has made have helped to both improve their game and unify the team as a whole, and hopes that camaraderie continues on the team after their graduation.

“I think we really showed underclassmen that team chemistry is everything,” Nijakowski said. “We all became pretty good friends.”

After qualifying for the state tournament for the first time last season, the team was determined to win it all this season. Senior Aidan Hunt, the 2022-23 Greater Miami Conference Bowler of the Year, said that many people thought Mason’s journey to the state tournament last year was lucky and that they wouldn’t get back. Hunt said that he was happy they were able to exceed expectations this season.

“We went into the season with people thinking we were overrated, and that state was just a one-time thing for us,” Hunt said. “It was cool to go out there and show them that we were still one of the best teams in the state.”

Exceeding their finish the year prior, the Comets placed fourth in the state tournament falling to Beavercreek in the semi-finals. Hunt said that the team gave it their all and even though they fell short in the end, they were proud of the season and careers they had making school history.

“I think we left everything out on the lanes,” Hunt said. “We all had our moments of execution where we could have done better, but in the end we got unlucky and that’s just what happens.”

The senior class formed a tight-knit friend group as they progressed through high school. Senior Jack Riley said that the playful banter and competitive energy made the sport unique and allowed for great team chemistry.

“We love to go at it with each other and have some friendly competition,” Riley said. “I think some inside jokes come out of that.”

Senior Timmy Hollenbeck joined the bowling team to keep himself busy during the winter sports season and did not know what to anticipate. Hollenbeck said that his experience with the bowling team surpassed everything he initially expected, and formed a family within the team.

Even though many of them will continue to bowl in college, the seniors on the boys’ team will always cherish the memories they made with each other throughout their high school career. Nijakowski said that the bonds they formed on the team made the experience special and will far succeed their time on the lanes.

“I didn’t really have high expectations going into bowling,” Hollenbeck said. “Breaking numerous records and winning tournaments were some of my favorite moments on the team and I wouldn’t have expected that when I started playing.”

“With how close our group is, it doesn’t really feel sad,”  Nijakowski said. “I’m still going to be friends with all these guys even though the season’s over.”

Photos from Mason Sports Information Director and Camden Paeltz