BY JEFF FALK
SOME PHOTOS SUBMITTED
PALMYRA – Teams are more than just a collection of individuals. To reap success, members must work together, foster chemistry and be accountable to one another.
But it sure doesn’t hurt when the team is comprised of champions.
The Cedar Crest bowling team is enjoying one remarkable season – not only one of the finest in program history, but also one of the most successful in the history of Lebanon County scholastic bowling. A lot has gone right for the Falcons this winter, not the least of which is the individual accomplishments of junior Kolby Bennett, freshman Darren Zombro and junior Paige Boyd.
If just one was to appear on a box of Wheaties, they’d have to conduct some sort of roll-off.
“I’m blessed to have a talented group of individuals,” said Cedar Crest head coach Jen Wagner. “This is one of the best groups to come through here. We’ve had a lot of top performances from underclassmen. Beyond our varsity five, we have depth. There’s strength in numbers.
“Well, it (bowling) can be a little bit of both (an individual and a team pursuit),” continued Wagner. “Even in team competitions, you’re still bowling individually. Everybody always has to put their best foot forward and pick up their spot.”
A month ago, Bennett, the reigning Pennsylvania state champion in bowling, captured his second Lancaster-Lebanon League boys’ individual championship in three seasons, at Leisure Lanes in Lancaster. A week later, Zombro, a promising freshman, claimed the District Three boys’ individual championship at ABC-North in Harrisburg.
“All of these kids started bowling when they were very little,” said Wagner. “A lot of this has come from their dedication in past years. Darren’s on the quiet side. But I like that he comes back and tells me what’s going on and what adjustments need to be made.
“In his freshman year, Kolby averaged close to 230 (per game),” Wagner continued. “In his sophomore season, it was well known that he was one of the best (scholastic) bolwers in the eastern region of the state. I think last year’s state championship definitely carried over to this year. He makes all the necessary changes. He’s very knowledgeable about the game overall, as a teenager.”
On February 13th at Clearview Lanes in Mount Joy, Boyd copped her second L-L League girls’ individual title. She and Bennett will compete as individuals at the state bowling championships at 222 Dutch Lanes in Ephrata on March 15th, then a day later, they will be joined by their Falcon teammates at the same venue for the team portion of the state championships.
“I deally, both Paige and Kolby are capable,” said Wagner, who’s in her second season of mentoring the Falcons. “They have the skill sets to walk away with state titles. Paige is one of the elite players in the state.
“When I stepped in, she definitely had the skill set,” added Wagner. “Not much needed to be done with her. She’s very in tune with her game. She knows when she needs to make changes. She’s willing to think outside the box to get end results.”
All the individual achievements Cedar Crest has enjoyed in the postseason was founded from team success enjoyed during the regular season. The Falcons had combined their talents to garner a rare Lancaster-Lebanon Section One title.
“Based on last year, we knew we had a pretty good chance at a successful season,” said Wagner, herself an accomplished bowler. “I knew the skill set Darren was going to bring to the team. I thought we were only going to get better. I had high expectations for this team. I knew we could be a front-runner in the section. It was almost surreal at times.
“We had a tough schedule at the beginning of the season,” Wagner added. “We were under .500. When that happens, you’ve got to take a step back. We lost some tough matches, but they were to good opponents. They (her bowlers) stepped up when they had to. They brought out their best.”
What the Falcons also did was focus attention on the under-publicized sport of bowling. Champions, and championships, have a knack for doing that.
“Maybe it’s because some people don’t realize that schools have bowling teams,” offered Wagner. “It doesn’t draw a lot of spectators. And it’s not held on campus.
“I know it’s rare,” continued Wagner. “But this group, from now to next year, is going to be one of the best teams to come through the program. I know they have the skill set necessary to determine their own success. It makes my job easy. I sit back and watch, but they share information with each other. I offere them suggestions, from time to time.”
Bowling is not like more traditional pursuits like football or baseball or basketball, and neither is its student-athletes. But make no mistake about the fact that these players’ levels of competition, preparation and focus can rival that of those in any sport.
“The mental aspect is half the battle,” said Wagner. “And being in tune with the physical asepct of the game is key too. It’s important to keep your head in the game and not get down on yourself.
“At the high school level, we don’t do conditioning,” Wagner continued. “At the collegiate level, you’re going to have conditioning programs. Strength in the legs is for stamina. It takes mental focus, and your muscles have to be there. They (the bowlers) condition muscles they need, so in Game Nine, they’re still at the top level of their competition.”
One should also never under estimate the value of hard work and practice. Because if you can train your body through repetition, muscle memory won’t abandon you during the heat of competition.
“All of them combined, they’ve been bowling since they were able to walk,” said Wagner. “Sometimes they go back to the basics. Everybody is different. Everybody has a uniqe approach. But at the end of the day, all you have is sound fundamentals. It’s a little bit of a science.”