Pins banged and set-gates clanged Thursday at Trail Lanes Bowling Alley in Hillsboro, much like they do every weekday afternoon, except Friday, now that the Tabor College bowling team is practicing for intercollegiate competition.
With three large tournaments under their belt, team members are striking and sparing their way to success, said coach Todd Zenner.
“They are actually performing way over my expectations,” Zenner said. “I just wanted us to be able to compete this year, but we have several students already placing high in the tournaments.”
Tabor College fielded a non-competitive team last year to test the waters for the new sport. This year they have already compiled impressive statistics at the Mid-States Tournament in Wichita, the Jayhawk Collegiate Challenge in Lawrence, and the Leatherneck Classic in Davenport, Ia.
“We had one girl, Chario Carter, who finished 8th in one tournament, and a boy, Daniel Brodell, who placed 12th,” Zenner said. “Our teams are placing 9th, 11th, and 18th. That is just great. We have individuals making the top 50 and I just didn’t expect that going into this year.”
Sport-specific recruits from California, Texas, and Kansas joined students already on campus to form the base of the 17-member men’s and women’s bowling teams at Tabor.
Samantha Hines, the only Marion County native on the team, said she really enjoyed being part of the fledgling organization.
“At the beginning of the year, coach told us we had to encourage each other, so now that is just what we do all the time,” she said. “We really are there to make each other better, and I know I can get advice from anyone on the team.”
Team members do all the regular hooting, hollering, and high-fiving when someone scores a strike or spare at practice. Clapping after every attempt adds enthusiasm to daily practice routines, which Zenner said follow a typical pattern.
“Most days we follow a Baker- format,” he said. “Five-member teams play one game but each individual only throws two frames.”
Zenner also spends time with each bowler, working on release, spare game, timing, and other issues.
“We are a very inexperienced team, overall,” he said. “But I really enjoy coaching because it is so much fun to see them learn, mature, and grow into excellent bowlers.”
Hines said she did not have much bowling experience when she transferred to Tabor from Hesston College last fall.
“Other than a few outings with my church youth group, I really hadn’t bowled much,” she said. “But when admissions counselor Chris Rangel asked me if I wanted to try out for the team, I was really excited.”
Hines earned a scholarship, and said being part of the bowling team was definitely a positive aspect of her experiences so far at Tabor.
“We don’t do everything together, but I know they are there for me,” she said. “Sometimes we eat together, we really enjoy traveling together. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Since bowling tournaments take place on weekends and often involve travel, Zenner initiated team Bible studies to compensate for regular Sunday worship.
“We do devotionals together online,” Hines said. “Sometimes we study together at the hotel or sometimes while we are driving.”
Bowling has the longest season of any college sport, extending from September to April. Zenner said he thought it possible that his teams could place in the top half of the NAIA tournament in March. There are 64 teams in the tournament.
“It’s a lofty goal to make the top 32,” he said. “But sometimes you need to aim high. We have some pretty good talent emerging.”
Zenner said several other Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference schools were looking at adding bowling as a sport, but for now Tabor competes without a conference and at the mercy of an international collegiate schedule.
The teams travel to Belleville, Ill., Feb. 2 and 3 for their next competition.