Indians looking to reload

By Grant Guggisberg

With last year’s senior-laden team gone, both the boys’ and girls’ bowling teams at Manhattan High are looking to reload for this year.

They’re not completely starting over, with three returning varsity bowlers on the girls’ side and two for the boys’. Still, head coach Chris George knows this team will rely on the contributions of some younger bowlers.

“On both the boys’ and girls’ sides we’ve lost our school-record holders, Austin (Boerger) and Jordan (Jackson),” George said. “Both were four-year varsity bowlers, contributors every week. We lost some other bowlers too, so we’re a young team.”

George said the newcomers are still adjusting to the varsity level.

“On both sides, we’ve got a lot of ninth graders,” he said. “We’ve got some ninth graders that have come in and are immediate contributors to our varsity, which is somewhat surprising, but it’s a good thing. They’re still learning the ropes — it’s a little bit different mentality, so they’re still getting their feet wet.”

The boys’ team returns Shon Eakes and Alex Huerta, while adding Thirakul Smitt, Gerad Vanhoosier, Tucker Reffitt. On the girls’ side, Miranda and Meghan Dooley return, along with Krystin Winiecki. Danielle and Andrea Miller and Katherine Eimer round out the squad.

For Miranda Dooley, the lone senior on girls’ varsity, the goal remains another state berth.

“I really want to go to state again,” she said. “I went there as a freshman, so it’d mean a lot if we got to go again this year.”

The senior says she is ready to lead this young team by being there for teammates.

“I just help people,” she said. “If they can’t pick up a spare, then I tell them to move these many boards, or tell them how to pick it up and cheer them up when they’re feeling down. I’m trying to be the best leader I can be.”

The group already has one tournament under their belt, the annual Bishop Carroll Invitational in Wichita, playing in the Baker format. Manhattan typically starts the year at this tournament in this format, but it took on added importance this year, as the coaches have voted to change the way team scores are compiled to the Baker system as soon as 2014.

In the Baker games, instead of each individual player rolling three games and adding the scores together, each member of the five-person team contributes to the single team score by bowling two out of the 10 frames. The first player bowls the first and sixth frames, the next bowls the second and seventh, and so on. The anchor bowler bowls the fifth and 10th frame.

“The coaches voted on it, as of now 70 percent of the coaches are in favor of changing the format to a Baker,” he said. “It’s different — the weight really falls on the shoulders of that anchor bowler. If you’re behind another team, everybody knows it, and it’s all on that anchor to make it up.”

Today’s tournament in Topeka hosted by Hayden will also follow the Baker format, giving teams some experience as the high school game begins to shift to the new system. College bowling uses the Baker format also. George said the biggest issue with the changeover is the need to still play the traditional games to determine individual champions.

“The only problem with doing both, is if you do the individuals and then do a Baker after that, it’s going to take a couple hours extra,” he said. “And the bowling centers, we can’t take money out of their pockets, they need to be open for business.”

George said he’s in favor of the changeover because it adds a team-based element that you don’t have in the current structure.

“What I liked about it, is everybody on the team must contribute,” he said. “It’s more of a total-team effort. As a team, if one team had four great bowlers and another team has maybe one or two great bowlers, the lower seeded team still has an opportunity. They could be the Cinderella of the tournament.”

For this year’s varsity squads, making sure they nail down the fundamentals will be the key to a successful season.

“Not missing easy spares, trying to adjust to the lane conditions, and not waiting too late to make those adjustments,” George said. “And that’s really hard to do. Hopefully our experienced bowlers will be able to show and teach our younger bowlers that that’s what you have to do.”

The team has only been practicing since Jan. 2, so the younger players have had to learn on the fly, though many of the freshmen coming in have benefited from private instruction.

“It’s a challenge for some of the beginners, but for the serious, experienced bowlers, they bowl year-round,” he said. “They’re involved in travel leagues and they get lessons on Saturday mornings with a real good staff that works with youth bowlers here. They would be responsible for any success we’ve had up to this point. We have great youth coaches — that’s why our ninth graders are so good coming in.”

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