Team captains Austin Jones and Chario Carter will set the tone for the Tabor bowling program in its first year of competition.
More than a year ago Tabor College introduced bowling to its winter lineup, and this season the Bluejays finally get a chance to strut their stuff.
Led by a core group of experienced recruits, including team captains Austin Jones and Chario Carter, the Tabor men’s and women’s bowling teams will enter their first competitions this year.
“We’ve bowled three tournaments this past semester and we’ve had our ups and downs, some bright spots and some low spots,” coach Todd Zenner said.
“We’re growing as a team.”
Zenner, a Newton native, bowled for Wichita State University when WSU won the national title in 1993. He had a stint on the professional tour before opening a bowling shop in Dallas, Texas.
When Tabor athletic director Rusty Allen proposed adding the sport, he contacted Zenner.
“That was something I wanted to do after bowling at Wichita State—come back to the same area and coach against the best and try and build a program against the best,” Zenner said. “I thought that’d be the best way to go about it, so I accepted the job.”
Because Tabor is the first team in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference with a bowling program, the Bluejays will compete against area colleges and universities, including established programs like Newman University or WSU.
“We’ve been trying to shadow Wichita State and Newman on a lot of (tournaments),” Zenner said. “I know both coaches, so they’re trying to help us out and lead us in the right direction.”
Propelling the both teams in the right direction are young, but experienced recruits. Most of them, like Jones and Carter, who competed for Newton and Augusta, bowled in high school.
“(Jones) has been bowling for a long time, same with Chario (Carter),” Zenner said. “She grew up in a bowling center like he did. They’re kind of bowling center rats.”
But not all of them. One of the men’s most experienced bowlers, Daniel Brodell, is self-taught via YouTube videos.
“He kind of had a different way of getting here,” Zenner admitted. “He’s a very solid bowler for someone who’s not had any physical coaching by anybody. He’s done it all on his own.”
But cases like Brodell’s are the exception among Zenner’s recruits. If their high school didn’t have bowling, they often competed in leagues at bowling centers.
Other than Jones and Brodell, other bowlers expected to help the men are Alex Simmons and Kyle Smith.
“They’re more experienced and older,” Zenner said. “We have freshmen coming in who bowled in high school, but they don’t have as many games under their belt as these guys.”
The freshmen have had to play their part this semester, however, as Jones, Simmons and Smith have had to sit out until spring.
“We just threw them to the wolves,” Zenner joked. “The boys just got pitched in there and with Hayle (Shipley, a freshman on the women’s team), the same thing.
“Just learning as they go.”
Heading up the women’s team is Carter, Ashley?Barr and Shipley. But the Bluejays also expect big contributions from Kirsten Allan from Buhler, who is a top-five bowler in the state.
Allan, who received all-state 4A-1A honors, helped lead her team to a 5A-1A team championship in March and has a bowling speed of 18 mph, which is about average for most males.
Zenner said he expects to see big things from her.
“We look to see leadership out of her and an anchor spot will probably be hers because she’s a different breed, throwing at that speed,” Zenner said.
Though still in the process of building the program, Zenner said the team already met his goals last semester.
“I’m going to have to set some higher ones,” he said.
Chief among those goals was better team unity and cooperation between bowlers.
“The men are doing a pretty good job, but the women are struggling,” Zenner said. “They’re still kind of individual bowlers, so they need to learn how to blend together as one and become a team.
“For the second semester, that’s what we’re looking for. More team play, better bonding, and working together as one unit.”
The Tabor bowling teams will next compete Jan. 19-20 in South Bend, Ind.