Battle Ground junior bowling for dollars
By Paul Danzer
Columbian staff writer
Wylicia Faley isn’t resting on past success. And she is one example of how girls high school bowling teams are helping students achieve college dreams.
The Battle Ground junior won the Class 4A individual state title last winter, helping the Tigers to the team title at the state tournament near Tacoma.
This season, Faley carries an 201 average in 11 high school matches — including a high of 278 — and recently helped her undefeated team beat Mark Morris to end that school’s 35-match win streak.
Faley’s success has also jump-started her college planning. In August she was invited to bowl for college coaches in Arlington, Texas, at the International Bowling Training Center. There she was rated fourth among 44 invitees.
In July, Faley traveled to Indianapolis where she participated in five tournaments that included young bowlers from around the country. She has qualified for the 2013 North Pointe Junior Gold Tournament next July in Detroit, where she will compete for scholarship funds.
Best high scores by bowlers this season:
Wylicia Faley (BG) 278
Cassie Huit (BG) 257
Jordan Heard (Sky) 252
Melissa Henry (EHS) 246
Bri Williams (Bay) 244
Madison Crockett (Sky) 236
Makayla Falk (BG) 234
Leila Stutesman (Her) 233
Alex Lanning (MV) 233
A.J. Schock (BG) 233
Heritage bowler Michelle Vanek, 18, hi-fives teammates to celebrate a strike during a match against Prairie at Big Al's, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012
All 10 pins scatter and Michelle Vanek turns to her Heritage teammates and asks: "How's it go?"
The reply is a short howl, imitating the cry of a Timberwolf, as four teammates slap high-fives with Vanek.
The ritual celebration -- repeated every time a Heritage bowler roles a strike -- is heard every few minutes during a match between Heritage and Prairie, the sound blending joyously into the fun-house atmosphere at Big Al's.
"Fun, to put it in one word," Vanek said, explaining the reason she has spent four seasons bowling for the Heritage varsity team.
Girls bowling has been a WIAA sanctioned sport for 11 seasons, and several Clark County bowlers and teams have earned state championships and gone on to bowl in college.
But perhaps most rewarding for those who participate are the unlikely friendships.
"It's really nice sitting with a group of girls who help me a lot with bowling and support each other," Heritage senior Leila Stutesman said. "If I hadn't joined the bowling team I wouldn't have known these girls."
An all-league softball player for Heritage, Stutesman joined the high school bowling team for something to do during the winter. But for many of her teammates, the bowling team is their only experience with a competitive high school sport.
"The best thing about coaching bowling is I get to know girls who I would probably never meet otherwise," Heritage coach Sherry Myers said.
Myers played college soccer and has coached soccer and basketball. A physical education teacher at Heritage, she notes that her bowlers' interests include music, theatre and other extra-curricular activities that seldom cross paths with athletics.
Megan Tolle, a Prairie junior, is one example. Tolle said her interests include art and drawing. A friend encouraged her to turn out for the bowling team. That friend backed out, but three years later Tolle is still rolling. She has worked to refine her technique, a process she said has helped her take on challenges in other areas.
"I can start to over-think things," Tolle said. "The biggest challenge for me is consistency, hitting my mark and all my steps and focusing on what I'm doing every time. That carries over to other parts of life."
Kaylee Kordosky's mobility is limited by a genetic disease. But with the help of a ramp to roll the bowling ball -- and teammates to line up her shot -- she is able to bowl from her wheelchair for the Falcons' junior varsity.
"Bowling's my thing," she said, flashing a big smile after recording two strikes and a personal-best 116 game on Friday.
Stutesman's thing is softball. Now bowling ranks alongside that spring sport for the Heritage senior.
"In the beginning bowling was just for fun," Stutesman said.
But it wasn't long before Stutesman had a new bowling ball and joined a juniors league at Allen's Crosley Lanes. During the winter season she bowls six days a week.
The focus and consistency needed to be successful in softball translate to the bowling lanes, Stutesman said. But she enjoys that the sports offer different experiences.
Hitting a line drive in softball is more thrilling than getting a strike in bowling, she said.
The sound of each is exciting, but she noted that there are a lot more chances to roll the ball in a bowling match than there are to swing a bat in a softball game.
Bowling offers plenty of time between frames to chat with teammates. But it also challenges the girls to focus, to be fundamentally consistent, and to adjust to changing lane conditions.
"If the oil pattern is really dry, I struggle," Vanek said. "You have to be willing to change all the time, to listen to coaches," she said.
Kelsey Smith, the only senior on Prairie's team this season, has participated in five sports in high school. She played basketball as a freshman and sophomore before switching her winter sport to bowling. She ran cross country in the fall and is the top returning thrower for the Prairie track and field team.
The footwork needed to be successful in the shot put isn't the same as it is for bowling, but the experience of working to perfect one pattern helps the other, Smith said. Plus, bowling satisfies her thirst for competition with minimal stress.
"It's really fun," Smith said. "It's just a lot of us girls getting together and having fun. We always have a good time."