The promise of Thanksgiving turkey and vacation time this weekend will not deter the University of Kansas club bowling teams from traveling to St. Louis for the 25th Annual National Collegiate Team Match Games.
The men's team, ranked seventh in the most recent National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association poll, looks to continue its improvement at the tournament. Several of the 52 teams expected to compete are also ranked highly.
Coach Mike Fine was pleased with the ranking, KU's highest in the 50-year history of the team.
"That was a neat surprise, but ultimately it does not mean much," Fine said.
He said two teams that ranked higher in the poll, Vincennes and Lindenwood, finished behind KU in one of the first two tournaments.
KU was also bested in the rankings by a team it travels with - Wichita State University was ranked fifth.
The men placed fifth overall at their last tournament, in Chicago, which was an improvement from last year's seventh-place finish. Jesse James, Lawrence senior, finished second in all-events with a total of 1,793 pins, just five pins short of first place. Jason Elliott, Salina senior, finished ninth.
The key to the bowling team's success has been the return of all but one bowler from last year and a traveling squad that is solid from top to bottom.
"We are a stronger team; we have good skills across the table," Fine said.
Elliot said he saw the team still in early, formative stages with plenty of room for improvement.
"We've bowled well but not put together a full tournament yet," Elliot said. "We have a lot of improving left."
KU will shoot for a top-five finish this weekend at a tournament in which it typically has its poorest performance. The team finished a disappointing 17th last year and 30th the year before.
The tournament will gauge KU's position among the elite bowling schools for the national championship in April.
"Right now, there is a group of five or six teams that can legitimately contend for the national championship," Elliot said. "We are in the bottom of that group."
Fine said 25 to 30 family members might also make the trip and spend their Thanksgiving with the team.
"If we want to be a national caliber team, these are the kinds of tournaments we have to go to," Fine said.