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Let’s roll: A reporter’s lesson on the lanes
The undefeated Olympic High School girls bowling team faced this media slouch two weeks ago in a gutter-ball of a show at All-Star Lanes & Casino.
I really wanted to win. What better way to celebrate the end of a decade than by writing a victory column? Perfect, I drooled. It wouldn’t be any ho-hum triumph. It would be one of those ride-into-the-sunset-with-a-grin-wider-than-the-horizon-ahead victories.
The plan: Defeat the five-member Lady Trojans varsity team in a standard, 10-frame match. Each of them would roll two frames apiece, I’d throw 10 and we’d keep score. The challenge was issued from me to them on a particularly ambitious-feeling afternoon sometime in December.
On the day of the match, I obtained a scouting report that was littered with big numbers and crooked stats I now fully accept as true.
Olympic, a second-place finisher at the state championships in February, entered the contest with a 166 pin-fall average, according to the report, and the team’s top bowler, Liza Ambrose, came in with an average of 189. I later learned she rolled a 279 during one practice this season.
In terms of how many pins they knock down per game out of 300, the so-called “pin-fall average,” five of the Olympic League’s top seven rollers currently wear the Blue and Silver. The Lady Trojans have knocked down 15,802 pins in 10 matches this season, excluding the bundle they dropped against me.
So I trudged into the bowling alley, five minutes late, second-guessing my decision to go mono-a-mono with a group of high-school-aged girls.
Coach Dave Colby lurked lane-side, and his quintet had already launched into warmups. A young woman at the front desk outfitted me with a pair of size-12 kicks, shiny red and forest green, and I shuffled to Lane 9 after a brief struggle with the laces.
Ambrose, a senior captain, immediately threw what I now know was a “hook” for a clean strike. Teammate Lacee Ness, a junior southpaw, duplicated that effort. At that point, my best move — aside from fleeing — was to find a ball for my chubby fingers.
Equipped with a 15-pound lunker, owned by Colby’s granddaughter, I toed the line for my first practice toss.
A strike. A striiiiike, baby.
But it was the only one I’d throw until the middle of the “real” game, when the score no longer mattered.
And so the match started.
Ness bulldozed a strike of her own to open for Olympic, and I ensued to bulldoze my lane with thud-of-a-shot after dud-of-a-shot. Managing to keep things respectable, I finished with a 128 and a surprising four spares. Olympic registered a “disappointing” 164.
“When we found out about this, I was like, ‘Watch, he’s going to be some hotshot bowler that we’ve never heard about before and he’s gonna come out and beat us,’” Ness said. “Then I was like, ‘Wait, that’s not going to happen.’”
“It would have been a little bit more fun if you were a hotshot.”
There is a swagger about this team you rarely see at the high-school level. Confident and determined, Olympic believes it can one-up its second-place finish of last season.
Ambrose, the league’s second-leading roller, is ready to deliver a perfect season. She wants — and expects — to win the league, district and state championship.
“We’re trying to close out the season undefeated, we’re all trying to get better,” she said. “We just want that first place. It’s my senior year, so I want first.”
Colby called the 2009-10 squad the best he’s seen during his time at Olympic, saying the team continues to gain maturity and work hard while focusing on the fundamentals. Next season could be even better, he said, adding Ambrose is the lone senior.
“Hopefully this is our year. They deserve it, they’ve worked extremely hard,” he said. “Like I tell them, ‘This could be your year, but don’t look past the next game. One game at a time.’”
With that motto, the Lady Trojans have piled up a 25-1 record dating back to last season.
26-1 if you include this waxing.