Bowlers chase national dream

Story by Jessica Lane

With five new bowlers on its roster, the Baker University bowling team is filled with fresh faces. But despite the team’s youth, the Wildcats have big aspirations.

“Our goal as a team is to make nationals,” head coach Cheryl Keslar said. “We have to do one tournament at a time.”

On Nov. 9-10, the team finished in 16th place of 33 teams at the ISYL Leatherneck Classic in Davenport, Iowa. This performance came just a week after the Wildcats finished third at the Jayhawk Collegiate Challenge in Lawrence.

“As a team, we always do really well when we bowl against schools that are higher than us,” freshman Rebecca Wood said. “It makes us try even harder.”

Junior Carly Schmidtlein led the Wildcats by placing 30th during the Leatherneck Classic, followed by Wood, who had a 50th-place finish. Sophomore Heather Wright has shown improvement over the season and placed 226th out of 276 bowlers with 523 total pins. Her team voted her the most valuable player for the tournament.

“Some of the starters weren’t having a very good day and we put her in and she did a great job,” Keslar said.

The team practices three times a week except for nursing majors Schmidtlein and junior Shaley Epperson. They meet at the Westridge Family Fun Center in Topeka, which is owned by Keslar and her husband. Keslar’s husband meets Schmidtlein and Epperson in order to keep them on track and work on fundamentals.

The Wildcats are preparing to bowl against teams like Wichita State University, which they consider to be their top competition this season.

“It’s important to just focus and it makes me strive to do better,” Schmidtlein said.

During the Jayhawk Challenge, the Wildcats tallied a team total of 5,566 points, falling only behind Wichita State and Lindenwood University.

Senior Brittani Kelly led BU with a fourth-place finish and an average score of 196 points. Schmidtlein followed in fifth place and an average score of 193 points. Three tournaments into the season, Schmidtlein leads Baker with a 180 average.

The team will be competing again on Nov. 29-30 at the Bel-Air Bowl in Belleville, Ill.

While the Wildcats prepare for their upcoming tournaments, they are also working to support their teammates.

The team chose to adopt a soldier, Wood’s brother, Zach. He will be deployed on Dec. 1 and will be stationed in Afghanistan. Junior Ally Eckert lost her brother in Iraq a few years ago and has been donating to service men and women since.

“I think it’s what her brother would have wanted,” Keslar said.

When Eckert heard about Wood’s brother, she wanted to help anyway she could and brought the idea to her team.

“It means the world to me that they would do something like this,” Wood said. “It’s hard not to see him all the time but he’s doing this for a good cause.”