Wildcat bowling closes senior night with big win

Lionel Tipton

El Dorado’s final home bowling meet of the season Tuesday was one to remember. The Wildcats swept the varsity and junior-varsity team titles, dispatching Wichita Collegiate at Grizzly Bowl.

The El Dorado boys’ triumph was their first victory of the season in six tries.

“I’m really proud,” head coach Destiny Bowlin said. “They bowled the way they were supposed to (Thursday). They finally got out of their heads a little bit.”

The varsity girls, as well as the junior-varsity boys and junior-varsity girls, improved to 3-5.

As is traditionally the case with a team’s final home appearance, it was Senior Night. The Wildcats again will lose several players to graduation – five boys and five girls.

Losing 10 team members seems like a lot, but Bowlin said that was pretty much typical for the Wildcats anymore.

“This was a really good group of kids this year,” Bowlin said. “I’ve had good ones in the past, but these are really good. They’ve mostly been here throughout their four years.

“We’ve lost an average of eight seniors over the years. I think we had nine last year, 10 this year, and the year before that, we lost 17. That was a fun one.”

Bowling is one of those rare sports where a player can come in with no experience at all and learn the sport on the fly.

“There’s a lot of learning that happens, and even this year I only had two freshmen, but I had probably about seven or eight kids who had never bowled before, if not more,” Bowlin said. “And (there’s) a lot of learning to do with it, but it’s really great to see them grow in the sport and figure it out.

“You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest.”

Bowlin said she thought the Wildcats would be victorious against Collegiate.

“They should have won this one,” she said. “It could have gone better with series scores overall, and they bowled a little under average, but not a ton. So, it was good.”

Bowling is a common thread that pulls the 10 seniors together, but they are all significantly different, Bowlin said.

The seniors who were recognized Thursday are:

  • Kaylee Manning: She has only been bowling for a few years, and has signed to play softball next year at Hesston College. “She took to it (bowling) really naturally, being an athlete,” Bowlin said. 
  • Emma Smith: She has been bowling for two years, Bowlin said. “She’s put a lot into it; she cares about the sport. You can tell she’s passionate about it.”
  • Selah Klayson: A four-year veteran of the Wildcat team. “I have not met a better person to show good sportsmanship than Selah in all four years,” Bowlin said. 
  • Trinity Lawrence: Bowlin said Lawrence is very self-effacing. “She has a bad habit of saying ‘sorry’ when she doesn’t have to,” Bowlin said. “And I told her our goal for this year is to try to get her stop saying it before she goes off to college. And she said, ‘You can try, but I don’t think it’ll happen.’ She’s been bowling for three years, and she’s been great.”
  • Kaitlyn Hutchinson: She wasn’t present Thursday. “Her dad got sick, and she took precautions and stayed at home,” Bowlin said. “If you tell her to do something, she tries her best. She’s really great.”
  • Caleb Winter: A four-year bowler. “He has come a long way,”  Bowlin said. “He’s really put a lot of work into the sport, and it’s been great to watch him grow.”
  • Alex Craig: He and Winter started at the same time, Bowlin said. “They worked their way up from JV, and they’ve done really great over the year,” she said. “I’ve liked watching (Winter and Craig) grow, and it will be said to watch them go.”
  • Mason Stringer: He is new to the sport this season, Bowlin said. “He asks a ton of questions (and) he really wants to learn about the sport,” she said. “It’s been great to see him have a big interest in it. He did really well picking it up.”
  • Korbin Stewart: He wasn’t present Thursday because of non-COVID health reasons, Bowlin said. “He’s a sweet kid, and he tries,” Bowlin said. Like Stringer, he just picked up the sport this season, she said. Having diabetes affects when he is able to play, she said. “When he’s here, he’s totally here,” she said. “He’s improved really well, too, (but) his health comes first, and that’s what we told him, too.”
  • Tengis Batuul: Another four-year bowler, Bowlin said he has also shown improvement. “He’s learned more, and he’s listened more,” she said. “When you start out as a freshman, kids really don’t listen that much.” But as he has grown physically, he also has gained focus, she said: “He’s done really well, and you can see it in his game scores, too.”

Bowlin said that as the season has progressed, so has the team’s cohesiveness.

“What I love, and what I’ve always loved about this team, is that even though I have top-tier bowlers and I have lots of new kids come in every year, I’ve loved watching how the kids help each other, even when I’m not there,” she said. “They’re so good at sportsmanship, and they’re so good at helping each other and making sure each one plays to the best of their abilities.

“They’re always there for each other, and that’s one thing I’m big on for my team.”

El Dorado won’t have much of a chance to savor this, as its next match is Friday at McPherson. 

“We’re in for a surprise,” Bowlin said. “If the boys come out and bowl their averages and maybe a little above, we could do really well. 

“Our girls are a pretty solid team, in all honesty. They listen a little more sometimes,” she said with a laugh.