Olympic’s Sutton striking success


Sports editor

Four years ago, Olympic senior Jessica Sutton didn’t even know the Trojans had a girls bowling team.

Now the sport might end up paying her way through college.

Sutton, the Trojans anchor bowler and team captain, is co-leading the Olympic League in individual average while helping the Trojans to an 8-3 record and the inside track on second place in the league. But what she really hopes to do is take her game to the next level for Wichita State University in Kansas.

“I’m hoping,” Sutton said. “I’d be so happy to get in there.”

That’s a goal that Olympic girls bowling co-coach Dave Colby would love to see her fulfill.

“She’s our power bowler,” Colby said. “She’s the best bowler we’ve got. We’re hoping.”

Colby is a little biased, but understandingly so. Sutton, after all, is his granddaughter.

“He’s been helping me all along,” Sutton said.

As a ninth-grader, Sutton said she heard about the team through an announcement that the Trojan rollers were looking for new members.

“I just thought, ‘That sounds like something fun,’” she said. “And it was an opportunity to try something new.”

After all, how many people could say they were high school bowlers?

“I was pretty surprised when I found out there was even a high school team,” Sutton said. “I had no idea.”

So that’s when Colby began working with her one-on-one to help improve her game. A bowler himself for more than 30 years, Colby quickly helped her identify what she needed to do.

“When she first started in her freshman year, she was throwing a back-up ball,” he said, referring to a ball that cuts back unnaturally against the way it was released. “I said, ‘Kiddo, this is the first thing we’re changing with you.’”

He got her rolling a more conventional hook ball, and things began unfolding from there.

“One of my big ones was dropping my shoulder and losing my balance,” Sutton said.

All Colby asked for was her commitment to doing what he knew worked.

“If you want me to teach you how to bowl, I’d be more than happy to spend time with you to teach you,’” he told Sutton. “But I told her, ‘You have to do it the right way.’”

As she starting taking in her grandpa’s tutelage, her love for the sport grew and developed more and more.

“Then she was starting to get excited,” Colby said. “The more excited she got, the more she wanted to learn.”

Sutton began working at All Star Lanes & Casino in the alley’s party room, a job that gave her free access to the lanes. That experience proved invaluable in her development.

But perhaps the biggest help was the addition of Colby to the Trojans’ coaching staff, first as an assistant and this year as co-head coach along side Kris Hendricks.

“Well, I was pretty excited he got the coaching job,” Sutton said. “Having someone who knows a lot about bowling is great.”

Colby handles the bowling instruction, while Hendricks, whose daughter Alaina Howell also rolls for the Trojans, handles the more behind-the-scences duties like scheduling and transportation.

Both grandfather and granddaughter have said it’s been a fun, interesting experience.

“Well, as a grandfather, it’s kind of tough because I do expect more out of her like any parent would expect more out of their child,” Colby said. “But on the same token, I just keep thinking, ‘Back off, back off. She knows what to do.’”

For Sutton, having her grandpa around has helped keep her focused.

“Having my grandfather breathing down my neck constantly, it keeps me in line,” she said.

And as the saying goes, the proof has been in the pudding.

When Sutton began bowling, her average was in the high-80s and low-90s. Now, her 175 average is tied with Bremerton’s Emmy Thomas for tops in the Olympic League.

“I started with an 85 average,” Sutton said. “I had no idea it would get this far.”

But in addition to her own improvement, Colby’s been able to directly and indirectly help the other girls on the team. Not only has he been able to work with each of them, but the work he’s done with Sutton has helped her to help her teammates.

“I find myself constantly watching the other girls and thinking in my head what they’re doing wrong,” Sutton said. “I’m able to help them out as well.”

All that makes it easy to see why she was selected captain, an honor she covets.

“I’ve been hoping for it,” Sutton said. “I wanted it last year. I was so happy this year I got it.”

Even had she not achieved the captain’s role, Sutton said it’s been great to be a part of the Trojan bowling legacy.

“It feels great being part of the program,” she said. “Last year we started to go downhill a little bit, we were losing girls. I’m just glad we have this little group that is dedicated and want to step up.”

Now, Sutton is hoping to parlay her bowling success into a potential college scholarship.

“That’s pretty incredible really,” Colby said. “Jessica is really a self-driven young lady. When she wants something, not much will stop her. She’s like me, so the family says.”

Sutton’s track record is certainly strong. Last year, she helped Oly to a fifth-place finish at the WIAA 3A/2A State Girls Bowling Championships.

So it should come as no surprise that Wichita State should be her potential suitor. The Shockers are 15-time national collegiate bowling champions, eight of those are women’s titles. The women’s team is the only team to be ranked in the top 10 in the nation in every national poll for 29 straight years.

“They’ve been sending her stuff, wanting updates on everything,” Colby said.

Sutton found out about the Shockers through researching various programs. She contacted three of the top four programs in the country, with Wichita State showing the most interest thus far.

“She didn’t know what to do. So I said, ‘Play the game,’” Colby said. “Wichita’s been sending her all this paraphernalia, e-mailing her back and forth. And Jessica is in tune to it. She knows what she wants and she’s dedicated to achieve it.”

She hopes to find out this May about a potential scholarship.

While she has played softball for Olympic as well, Sutton has decided to focus on both bowling and her grades this year in hopes of becoming a collegiate bowler.

And with the years she has under her belt already, not to mention her grandfather looking over her shoulder, she’s certain she knows what it will take.

“Confidence,” Sutton said. “It’s a head game, that’s for sure. You have to have confidence in yourself. You have to have that when you let go of the ball.

“It won’t do it on its own.”

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