Eleven freshmen have been added to this year’s Baker University bowling team. The current roster has 15 women, which means that for the first time Baker will have a varsity and a junior varsity team as well as a group of alternates.
Julia Southern, a freshman from Gardner, is one of the new Wildcat bowlers.
“It’s a mental sport,” Southern said. “You focus on your mark and if you miss it, it’s on you.”
Southern’s interest in bowling began when she was a child. Her parents bowled on Friday nights.
“I always went with them,” Southern said. “And I asked them if I could join a kids’ league.”
Her early memories of bowling are not all pleasant, though.
“I was not good,” she said. “I cried a lot.”
After improving her skills, especially through competitions during high school, Southern considered continuing her bowling career at Baker University or Wichita State University. It was the Baker atmosphere that influenced her decision.
“I felt more at home at Baker,” she said.
Another new freshman team member, Madison Kent, also started bowling because it ran in her family. Kent, like Southern, chose Baker for its comfortable feel.
“[I chose Baker] because it’s a small campus,” Kent said. “And it’s close to home.”
Kent said her favorite part of bowling is the friendships that are formed. Southern agreed, saying that college is different from the competitiveness of teammates in high school.
“Here, you help each other,” Southern said.
Though the team does not officially begin competing in tournaments until early October, the women are supposed to practice year-round.
They currently practice three times a week for one-and-a-half hours each session at Royal Crest Lanes in Lawrence. Because of the increase in team size, the team’s head coach Cheryl Keslar has arranged the practice schedule differently.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, the team has a full team practice. During the other days of the week, the women go in groups of five for individual-based practices.
It allows the coaches to “spend more time with each team member,” freshman Brittany Crittenden said.
Crittenden, from San Diego, came to Baker specifically for bowling.
“That’s why I’m out here,” she said. “There’s no bowling team in California.”
Her bowling career began when she was 4.
“As soon as I could walk my dad said ‘Here’s a 6-pound ball. Hit as many of those white things down as you can,'” Crittenden said.
Ever since that time, Crittenden has involved herself in other sports but mainly stuck with bowling.
“I like that it’s more about what you know,” Crittenden said. “It’s a sport where you have to know.”
On Dec. 19-24 the team will travel to Las Vegas for four tournaments. Each tournament will have 16 games for each player.