Teamwork. Sure, bowling is an individual sport: one person, one ball and ten pins. The one thing that bonds this Kansas team together, however, is the team itself.
The Kansas bowling team competed in the Mid-States Tournament in Springfield, Mo., this weekend, in its first competition of the season. I had wanted to talk to freshman Kelly Sanders as she was coming off a 227 game, but ended up surrounded by the entire women's squad. They answered as a unit.
A strong field made the trip to Springfield, headed by teams from Wichita State and Central Missouri State, who placed second and third in the nation last year.
Coach Mike Fine explained that the "team" atmosphere was indeed their greatest strength - both in tournaments and in recruiting. Bowling is an official NCAA women's sport at 41 different schools, and scholarships are available to lure away top prospects. So how does Fine attract players to KU?
"KU is a great place to go to school," he responded immediately. "We get people to visit," he added. Once they get here, see the campus and see the team in action, that proves a decent draw.
Fine even has an angle to help on the financial end. "We recruit smart kids," he explained, "then we help them get academic scholarships."
He summed up the growing popularity of collegiate bowling by naming it an "emerging growth sport universities can use to meet gender equity." Bowling is not yet an official sport for men.
The Jayhawks are always one of the first teams to arrive at any tournament. They use their time to stretch, check out their lanes and test their equipment. The average collegiate bowler will use five or six different balls.
As it was explained to me - again, by the team - as a tournament progresses and the pressure mounts, the lanes develop a bit of wear. The different balls have different levels of slickness to provide the best fit for any lane throughout a competition.
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|The Kansas women's bowling team takes to the lanes.|
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|The men's team attacks the pins in Springfield.|
Even before getting to the tournaments, the team spends a great deal of time in the friendly confines of the Jaybowl, where they will put in up to two hours a day of practice. Add in league play, and it is not unusual for team members to bowl upwards of 80 games a week.
In Springfield, the men's team placed fifth, paced by Jason Elliott's 199 average. The women's side placed eighth, led by Kelly Zapf and her 198 average. Both Elliott and Zapf earned all-tournament team honors.
Team coach Mike Fine said of his squad, "for a team with three people at their first tournament, this is pretty good." The women's team boasts three freshmen and two sophomores.
Wichita State swept both men's and women's divisions. West Texas A&M; took both second-place finishes.
The Kansas men's roster included Elliott, Rhino Page, Jason Reese, Mark D'Errico and Glenn Harrison. Competing for the women were Zapf, Alecia Savage, Sanders, Annetta Mantai, Kristina Boehm and Sarah Roenfeldt.