The Shocker women won their seventh national title, their first since 1994, at the Intercollegiate Bowling Championships in Rockford, Ill.
Coach Mark Lewis fs ’01 and WSU men’s coach Gordon Vadakin ’82 both credit the record-setting win with the team’s sense of togetherness — the feeling of being a true collective rather than a group of individual athletes. This team, Lewis and Vadakin say, is about the team.
As team captain, Anita Manns deserves recognition for setting the right championship tone. Lewis says the affable nursing student from Austin, Texas, “really helps build the players around her.”
Her coaches agree this quality played a major role in keeping her teammates calm and confident in stressful competitions.
Yet it is certainly more than her personality that makes Manns an effective leader. It’s also her outstanding and consistent play. This season, she was named most valuable player by the National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association and player of the year by the Bowling Writers Association of America. And she is an academic All-American.
Like Manns, a number of other Shocker bowlers struck individual acclaim this year, but both Vadakin and Lewis are quick to point out a dominant trait of this year’s bowlers.
Lewis explains, “They were so willing to let whoever was bowling best be the ones who bowled in any tournament. There were days Anita didn’t bowl, even as the best player in the nation for the year.”
This willingness, Lewis says, made his job easier. “We could change bowlers and work it so that we could have the greatest level of success,” he says. Vadakin adds, “They believed in what they needed to do, and they did it — all season long.”
While bowling is a great recreational sport in the United States, it is treated much more like a club sport internationally. And with the success enjoyed by the WSU bowling program over the past 25 years, the Shocker coaches have been successful at recruiting international players.
Two who helped the Shockers to this year’s national title are Clara Guerrero from Colombia and Caroline Lagrange from Canada.
Guerrero’s nearly 17 years of international competition prepared her well to bowl with the Shockers. She was invited (as one of only 25 women) to bowl at the World Ranking Masters Tournament April 25-30 and won the title, making her the top-ranked amateur bowler in the world.
Lagrange also has international competition experience. Named Canada’s 2004 female Bowler of the Year and a member of Team Canada, Lagrange will bowl in the World Games in Duisburg, Germany, in July, and in the Women’s World Team championships in Denmark in August.
“We pride ourselves on the draw the program has,” says Vadakin, adding that players representing 23 states and “a couple of countries” tried out for the 2004-05 team. But securing a place on the team one year doesn’t guarantee a place on the team the next.
“These open tryouts keep the competitiveness up,” explains Lewis. For talented, but non-selected players, the WSU program offers bowling education for the purpose of keeping their level of play competitive and increasing their chances of making the team in a future tryout.
Lewis reports that every year there are “a few bowlers who don’t make the team, but who go through the program and come back the next year and make the team.”
This year’s team enjoyed their season’s journey to claiming No. 1 status in Rockford — perhaps a bit too much. Bowling etiquette calls for not creating excessive distractions. “I had to get them to be quiet when we were in match play,” Lewis says. “They were over there giggling.” Giggles notwithstanding, the Shockers seriously took care of bowling business and swept the second-place West Texas A&M Buffaloes for the title.
“We were having as much fun as we could,” Lewis adds. And what could be more fun than winning the national championship for a record seventh time?