In their debut tournament, both Oklahoma Christian University bowling teams began with strikes and ended with trophies.
The men’s and women’s bowling teams travelled to Amarillo, TX Sept. 22 to compete in the Southwest Intercollegiate Bowling Circuit (SWIBC).sss
For the Eagles, freshman Josh Imhoff rolled the first shot for Oklahoma Christian, which was a strike. Imhoff continued to post scores to place him at the top of the tournament leaderboard. He bowled a 236 the first game, a 257 the second game, a 221 the third game and he closed the day with his two lowest scores, 208 and 189, to claim the individual title.
Head coach James Hayes, in an interview with Sports Information Director Murray Evans, said he could not have asked for a better debut performance by his freshman captain.
“Josh was throwing the ball very well,” Hayes said. “He averaged 222. He had a really good look all day. He stayed poised really well. I am super proud of him and what he did.”
Freshman Andrew McCann placed sixth individually out of 78 competitors with an overall score of 1,042 across five games.
As a team, the Eagles finished second out of seven teams with an overall team score of 8,037. West Texas A&M University placed first with a team score of 8,282.
“It’s super exciting, not only for the kids here, but for the university, which brought in the program,” Hayes said. “[Oklahoma Christian’s administration] gave us the opportunity to make this a reality, and being able to bring home some hardware is exciting.”
During the women’s competition, freshman Taylore Ryan threw a strike to get the competition rolling.
Freshman Melissa McConnell recorded a third-place individual performance for Oklahoma Christian in her debut tournament. She posted a final score of 849 for the Lady Eagles with individual game scores of 200, 185, 142, 170 and 152. She finished 12 pins behind the champion from West Texas A&M.
“Melissa threw the ball well,” Hayes said. “She averaged right around 170. She did really well. Both my captains [McConnell and Imhoff] are going to bring back trophies. That’s pretty exciting.”
After placing in her first collegiate tournament, McConnell said it felt great to be able to set the reputation for the Oklahoma Christian bowling program.
“I went out there and bowled my best and it was an amazing feeling to walk away with two individual third place finishes as well as a third and first place team finish,” McConnell said.
Also, for the Lady Eagles, freshman Alexandria Ford finished 14th out of 33 bowlers with an overall total of 732 and freshman Kaitlyn Esquer placed 15th with a 723 overall score.
As a team, Oklahoma Christian ended in third place in the four-team field with an overall team score of 6,276.
“It’s long been waited for,” Hayes said. “Our athletes have worked so hard for this day. I’m super proud of them. They did outstanding. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
While Hayes feels pride for his athletes, McConnell said Hayes goes the extra mile as a coach and pushes her to be at her best.
“Coach Hayes is an amazing coach,” McConnell said. “He pushes us to be our best every day and he’s always there whenever we need him, regardless if it’s related to bowling or not. For me he showed my bowling videos to the ball reps of the two best two-handed bowlers in the world (Jason Belmonte and Osku Palermo). I got advice from them on how to improve my game, which was amazing. Coach also pushes me to prove to everyone who says I can’t be a female two-handed bowler that I can.”
As the bowling team continues to practice before their next tournament, McConnell said she is really looking forward to the dynamic of being apart of a team.
“My main goal this year is to be the best captain and leader I can be and to make the all tournament team at every single one of our tournaments,” McConnell said. “I’m really looking forward to improving my game and traveling to tournaments with all of my amazing teammates.”
After bowling in the SWIBC II tournament Sunday, the Eagles and Lady Eagles will return home and continue practicing until their next tournament, the Mid-States Championships in Wichita, Kansas. Oct. 20-21.
Article edited after first post. Quotes by Melissa McConnell added.