Lawrence High swept the boys and girls halves of its dual meet Tuesday against Free State at Royal Crest Lanes, where a pair of LHS bowlers showed there is more than one path to the top.
Junior Austin Bennett ranked first in the boys competition with a 707 series and freshman Miranda Krom had the best day of her life with a 706 series to win the girls competition.
End of similarities.
Bennett used a 16-pound ball, aimed for the five board (the first on the right), and kept his ball moving in the 14-to-15 mph range.
Krom used a 14-pound ball, aimed for the 10 board (the second arrow from the right) and threw balls that generally stayed between 10 mph and 11 mph.
“It’s not just throwing a ball down the lane,” Lions senior Rebecca McNemee said. “You really have to concentrate and think of what you’re doing.”
Krom credited McNemee with consistently helping her to set on the right spot, hit the correct mark and keep the ball moving at the proper speed.
“Rebecca was pretty proud of me today,” Krom said.
Part of maintaining a successful program in any sport involves upperclassmen passing along tips to underclassmen, and McNemee knows the sport and all its subtleties quite well. For one thing, she knows the speed of the ball is not the key.
“It’s how much hook you get on the ball and where you throw it,” McNemee said. “Each ball is also designed differently. Some react more, which means they’ll hook more. Mine’s a low-reaction ball, so it doesn’t hook as much, so you have to get it out in the dry lanes to get it to hook more. The speed can also determine the hooking. The slower you throw the ball then the more it will hook.”
And then there is finding the right ball. McNemee uses a 14-pound ball.
“If you use too light of a weight ball it will just ricochet off the pins and it won’t carry through,” McNemee said. “It’s all in your arm strength. That’s why I’m at a 14 because I don’t have as much muscle as Austin Bennett. A 15-pound bowling ball would really tire out my arm. Because I throw it so slow, a 14-pound ball is just enough weight to pull through and drive through the pins.”
Bennett said the ball felt good coming out of his hand all day and he kept the speed under control.
“When I’m having a bad day I’ll get mad, I’ll throw it too hard and that won’t fix anything,” Bennett said.
The lanes have more oil in the middle, less on the edges, McNemee explained. And each house is different. Bowlers from both sides of the 15th Street dividing line expressed gratitude that Thursday’s Sunflower League meet will be at Royal Crest.
“It feels good to be on your home lanes,” said junior Briggs Fish, a left-handed bowler. “It feels like home. You know everything that could be thrown at you with the different oil conditions. You’re familiar with everything around you and it’s easy to get zoned in.”
Fish, Free State’s No. 6 bowler coming into the day, ensured his spot to be one of the six varsity bowlers representing the Firebirds in the league meet by rolling a team-best 650.
“It’s a pretty average shot. It’s a shot you score pretty good on but if you’re not shooting well you’re not scoring well,” Fish said. “Some places it’s pretty easy to bowl on and some places it’s pretty hard.”
Free State’s Chase Taylor makes it look easy, no matter the lane on most days. Tuesday wasn’t one of those days. He usually wears contact lenses, but he couldn’t because he came down with pink eye and had to wear glasses.
“Hopefully, he’ll be 100 percent healthy Thursday, but pink eye usually lasts a few days,” Free State coach Burton Gepford said. “If not, he should be ready for regionals (in Manhattan).”
Whether a bowler competes with a pink eye or clear eye, this much seems certain: There is more to this sport than meets the eye.