BY Jackson Cropper
While other Jenks students were preparing for the first playoff game, a select few students weren’t focused on the much-awaited football game and instead were focused on knocking down some wooden pins.
Many people may not know that Jenks has an official bowling team. It’s not funded by the school as a team, it’s not supported by a booster club… it’s not even a school-sponsored club, but it is official. The team solely operates through the bowling alleys and while that might mean many Jenks students do not know about the team’s existence, they are doing really well despite the lack of public knowledge.
Father and bowling hobbyist, Steve Wayras, started the team when his son was in middle school to encourage him to participate in competitive bowling. That was eight years ago, and even though his son has now graduated high school, Wayras continues to spread his love for the sport through coaching the girl’s Bowling Team.
On any given Thursday during the season, you can find the team practicing at Tulsa’s own Andy B’s. Team captain, Kate Kouplen (12th) will be the one with an entire lane to herself. She might even be wearing protective shoe-covers over her bowling shoes when she’s not knocking pins down. Kouplen has been on the team since 7th grade and plans to finish this year out strong.
“I am the anchor of the team,” Kouplen said. “I’m also the team captain so I try to motivate all of my teammates to do their best and to have fun. I also get strikes about 82.7% of the time I bowl!”
And while she may knock down all the pins a claimed 82.7% of her bowls, she’s not holding the entire team up on her shoulders. Jenks students Camryn Matlock (12th) and Brooke Bachelder (11th) have been on the team for years and have helped the team secure the Tulsa Regional Championship four years in a row. Wayras refers to them as “seasoned veterans.”
“They really know what to expect,” Wayras said. “They know how to practice efficiently and they come out swinging when we get into tournaments.”
Bachelder was sharing a lane with two of her friends in hopes that they would join the team. Isabella Griffey (11th) and Zoe Losacco (11th) have never been active bowlers, but their newfound dedication to the sport has stemmed from Bachelder’s positive experiences on the team.
“I’m excited to have my friends bowling with me,” Bachelder exclaimed. “It isn’t about how good you are at bowling, it’s about how much fun we’re going to have together throughout the season.”
Although Griffey was unsure of how to bowl at first, she surprised herself by bowling strikes on the fifth and sixth frames (bowling lingo for “turns”). Losacco also performed better than she thought she would when she knocked seven pins down on the tenth frame.
“That was actually pretty good,” Losacco said after high fiving Bachelder. “Seven pins is better than six!”
Despite wearing their bowling experience (or lack thereof) on their sleeve, Wayras signed Griffey and Losacco on to the team. In fact, they passed with flying colors! Their interest in pursuing the sport and dedication to start practicing was enough for Wayras to let them join.
“Most kids are not confident when they start to bowl,” Wayras later explained. “We want to teach them how to bowl and have fun while doing it. We don’t care what their skill level is.”
Now that the team has six official members, they are more than ready to take on other teams in competitions, and with the new additions to the team being good friends, the group’s chemistry will be better than ever.
“You couldn’t imagine how proud I am of these kids,” Wayras gushed. “They really give it their all every year.”
Starting December 7th they will begin competing in regional competitions. Games will be hosted on Fridays at the various bowling alleys around the Tulsa area.
“I’m hoping for a state championship, “ Wayras beamed. “I’d love to have a banner hanging at Andy B’s and a trophy in the trophy case. I know they’ll try their best.”
The team suggests that if you’re wanting to watch only one game, the regional competition is the one to go to. It’s energetic, and the boisterous crowd gets very interactive with the athletes. The game will be held in March at Andy B’s.