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W.F. West Bowling Team Rolls Into Inaugural Season

W.F. West’s Ellie Bunker bowls during practice at Fairway Lanes in Centralia on Tuesday.

W.F. West Bowling Team Rolls Into Inaugural Season

By Matt Baide

mbaide@chronline.com

There’s a new winter sport in Chehalis, as the W.F. West girls bowling team has begun its inaugural season.

W.F. West had 22 girls come out for the team, which is coached by Don Bunker. The Bearcats had a bowling club for years, and generated enough interest to start up an official team.

“It was a nice surprise, but I think with the amount of interest, I knew we were going to have enough for a varsity and a JV. I wasn’t sure, and now we have enough for probably four teams,” Bunker said, explaining that the team can bowl five at a time with two alternates to sub in.  “There’s a lot of interest and there’s a lot of girls that wish they would have come out now. They see how much fun the girls are having and I think we’ll have even more next year.”

The coaching staff has a plethora of bowling experience. Don Bunker has been bowling since he was 5 years old and has been bowling in the Tuesday All-Star league at Fairway Lanes ever since moving back from his first teaching job in Selah.

“I was always interested. I’ve talked to the athletic directors about wanting to do it if the job opened up, and it did so I went for it and got the position,” Bunker said.

Assisting Don are two of the most accomplished bowlers in Lewis County. Rich Bunker, Don’s father, is an assistant coach and is also the president of the Lewis County Bowling Association. Rich is a member of the Lewis County Bowling Hall of Fame, having bowled eight 300 games and three 800 series. The other assistant coach is Bob Spahr, another member of the LC Bowling Hall of Fame.

“I tried to get this going a long time ago, also with Centralia. We tried to get Centralia to do this —  this is a big sport in other schools, Centralia and Chehalis are just kind of dead last in this,” Rich Bunker said. “Montesano is even going to have a team next year, but you go to the bigger schools and it’s huge.”

Taking a look at his roster, Don said he’s happy with the skill level of his team.

“We have a lot of beginners, a lot of good athletes. They’re picking it up really fast,” he said.

Senior Ashley Werner is the top bowler so far, with an average of about 157. The varsity lineup average is between 128 and 157, Don Bunker pointed out. The team has two competition days a week during practice, where the players establish their averages.

“There aren’t any politics involved, it’s just the top 14 bowlers,” Don Bunker said. “The top seven are on varsity, and the next seven are on JV and C team if there’s enough interest.”

Bowling can be a difficult sport to teach, with techniques and fundamentals such as steps, bowling in the pocket and learning how to spin.

“The first thing anybody is going to find out if they haven’t bowled before, bowling is a lot harder than they think. It takes timing, it takes accuracy, all kinds of things that I can teach them, and the better athletes are going to pick it up faster, but you don’t have to be a physical specimen to be a good bowler,” Rich said. “You don’t have to be a great athlete, you just have to get to where you get the basic skills down, and you’ll see all kinds of different shapes and sizes be good bowlers.”

The only other Evergreen 2A Conference bowling teams are Black Hills and Tumwater, which forces the EvCo to play a lot of matches against the Greater St. Helens 2A League schools, which all have bowling teams.

Matches consist of five players bowling two games, followed by two games of Baker Format, meaning each of the five bowlers bowls two frames each to get a total game score. Each team has two alternates that can sub in during matches. All of the games contribute to a total pin count to determine a winner.

“It’s pretty loud and exciting during the Baker format. So it’s definitely a team sport, because ultimately it comes down to, it doesn’t matter how you do individually, it’s our total score,” Don said. “There’s a lot of peer mentoring. They’re really enjoying working with each other and they’re really serious about it.”

The Bearcats have already played their first match, defeating Tumwater 1502-1456 on Monday. The basic atmosphere is that of a prep sporting match, only set in a bowling alley.

“Their classmates come watch them and support them and their families,” Don said. “Being kind of tighter quarters, it gets pretty loud in here, kind of an exciting environment,” Don Bunker said.

Although this is the first year of the program, Rich Bunker hopes the team has an expectation of winning.

“If they pick up their spares, they have a chance to beat anybody,” Rich Bunker said. “They get pretty excited about it, because they want to win. They don’t know what they’re doing, maybe, but they want to win.”

W.F. West bowls next on Monday against Black Hills at 3:15 p.m. at Fairway Lanes in Centralia.

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