Cougar bowlers set to hit the lanes rolling
Two very different teams will make up the combined forces of the Shawnee Mission Northwest bowling program that begins competition in January. While coach Britt Haney has a good idea of what one side is capable, he is going to have to learn through upcoming practices what his other side can do.
Haney and his staff finished the tryout process for the 2009 bowling squads in mid-December and have assembled both boys and girls teams that have the potential to be major players in both league and regional tournaments.
While Northwest’s boys team will be replete with experience, the girls team will have experience at the top with many untested quantities waiting to make their mark.
“Our boys team is going to be a very veteran and experienced team this year,” Haney said. “Out of our top 14, 13 are juniors or seniors.”
Among the best male returnees is senior Alex Bates, who averaged 185 last season. Bates appears to be fully recovered from appendectomy surgery that sidelined him at the end of last year.
The Cougar boys will also return top seniors Quentin Nicolace and Zach Cole as well as fellow senior Andy Russell. Russell makes his debut as a member of the varsity after spending much of the off-season bowling with Bates. As a result of the off-season work, Russell became an efficient bowler who averaged 196 in tryouts.
Top junior returnees include Shane Jennison and Nick Michalski.
“We are going to be very competitive this year,” Haney said. “Last year we had eight kids average over 180. I see that as a minimum this year. I can see three of those kids averaging in the 200s. It’s going to be a good year for the boys as long as we finish strong in February. Last year we were running along at a pretty good clip until the last month of the season. I think we’ve learned from that.”
On the girls side, the movement is toward youth for the second year in a row. The number one spot will be held down by sophomore Jamie Queral, the Cougars’ only state qualifier last season. Queral, who averaged 188 during tryouts, spent her off-season bowling in three different leagues and looks to have improved her already well-polished game.
She’ll be joined as a varsity starter by Laura Highland whose tryout average was 18 pins higher than her per-game average of a year ago. Senior Kelly Cole should be another varsity starter after having been a state qualifier two years ago.
“The key will be finding that fourth girl this year,” Haney said.
Haney is hopeful that freshman Brianna Lavigne can step into that spot right away.
The Cougars began practice Jan. 2, only eight days before their first meet — a 24-team Baker’s Tournament on Jan. 10 in Wichita. The team then will return home to play host its own Baker’s Tournament at Park Lanes. A Baker’s Tournament features teams of five bowlers bowling one game against another team. Each of the five bowlers bowls two frames and the cumulative score between them is the score for the game.