When one thinks of Newton’s most popular sports, bowling usually isn’t one that immediately comes to mind.
Given the immense amount of success the sport has had since its inception, it really should.
Cardinal bowling has flown under the mainstream radar since Newton Senior High School officially sanctioned it in 2009, but that hasn’t stopped the girls squad from becoming arguably the most successful Newton sport in that time.
The Cardinal lady bowlers have placed in the top three at state in each of the last four years. They took third place in 2009 and 2012 and were runners-up in 2010 and 2011. They’ve won four straight regional championships, are undefeated in regular season play since the start of the 2010 season and have won six straight Little Hawkeye Conference titles — going back to when it was a club sport in 2007 and 2008.
When asked how his girls and boys teams have had so much success in such little time, Newton coach Seth Banwell was quick to appropriate it to Cardinal Lanes owners Jeff and Beth Van Blair. The two donate Cardinal Lanes for the Newton teams to use free of charge, and even have a staff member clean the lanes after practices — which are bright and early at 6 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Along with that, Banwell gave credit to the youth bowling leagues, which help mold the skills of Newton’s youth to a point where they are already talented bowlers by the time they enter high school.
“A lot of my seniors have been bowling since first or second grade,” Banwell said. “I inherit a lot of good talent.”
Last year’s third-place girls finish was highlighted by 2012 graduate Emily Braga taking third place individually. She later received a scholarship to bowl at William Penn University. Current junior Erica Bailey placed 15th and graduate Becky Collins took 22nd.
Along with Braga and Collins, this year’s team also has to replace varsity graduate Shelby Bare and current junior Elizabeth Christy, who moved during the offseason.
Senior Bethanie Hughes joins Bailey as returning varsity players, leaving four spots to be filled on the six-person varsity.
“They’ve stepped up,” Banwell said of Hughes and Bailey. “They’ve really brought down their averages in the offseason.”
Those four spots look to be filled by freshman Madison Humphrey, senior Ella Daft and sophomore-junior sister combo of Courtney and Makayla Tabor. Despite Humphrey’s youth, Banwell said she figures to be the team’s top bowler, entering with a 185 average.
On the boys side, Banwell has luxery in numbers. Turnout skyrocketed this year, with 34 boys on the roster. Six are seniors, 10 are juniors, 10 are sophomores and eight are freshmen.
“We’ve had a successful last couple of years. The kids have a great time throughout the season, and I think that’s spread throughout the school,” Banwell said of the large turnout.
Returning from last year’s varsity are senior Dylan Van Sickle and sophomores Andrew Lammey and Alex Bare. Banwell said he expects those three to be joined on varsity by junior Ryan Bowen and freshmen Jake Karlzen and Bryan McMahon.
While those are the projected varsity lineups for Newton bowling this winter, there will be plenty of competition within the team each week.
“Bowling’s kind of unique. I have bowlers compete for their spots every Wednesday,” Banwell said. “I don’t have to play favorites or anything like that. They determine their own lineup.”
Banwell said the goal this year is to have the girls and boys teams both make it to state.