Lanes of laughter: Adapted bowling team brings the fun and the competition
Published 6:52 pm Monday, March 27, 2023
Austin eighth grader Ella Riley has an infectious smile that lights up the room, and she was shining her brightest at Echo Lanes on Monday.
When Riley, who is a member of the Austin adapted bowling team, was asked what she liked most about being a member of the team, she let out a big grin and said “this” as she grabbed her ball and let it roll.
Riley is one of the many bowlers on the team who spend their day anticipating their time at the lanes.
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“I like bowling and I like being out here with my friends. It’s something I look forward to,” Riley said.
The team, which includes students with autism, physical impairments or cognitive impairments, hosts all of its regular season matches at Echo Lanes and scores with opponents are exchanged through a computer program. The section meet is held in Mankato and the state meet is held in Brooklyn Park.
Players can compete in singles or doubles and those who need assistance are given help by local physical education teachers. The competition days include a lot of fist pumps, celebrations and they are driven by a supportive atmosphere from teammates.
The team is coached by Dan Mareel, who is in his eighth year on the job.
“It’s very important to have the team. It translates into life skills beyond the bowling alley,” Mareel said. “Some kids who have graduated have asked to come back and help. Those kids are successful in the community now.”
Austin sophomore Mackenzie Klapperich is a 10th grade team captain who started bowling with the help of her grandpa and now she is one of the leaders who helps other bowlers learn the sport.
“It’s fun to hang out with new friends and meet new people,” Klapperich said. “I like being able to help the other kids who need help. It’s nice to see them get better.”
The adapted bowling team begins competing in March, but Mareel said he usually hears kids asking about bowling by January. By the time the season gets underway, the bowlers are enthusiastic to get going and work on their game.
“What I like for the kids the most is to see how excited they get with their improvement in bowling,” he said.
Matt Wyse is the father of freshman bowler Peyton Wyse and Matt enjoys coming to Echo Lanes to watch Peyton put it all out there. Matt knows his son would rather be playing football, but bowling provides the best opportunity for him to compete and Peyton already went to state in bowling last year.
“It’s something for him to do. It gets him moving, it gets him active and it gets him on a team. He’d like to play other sports, but it would be difficult for him. He looks forward to this and it’s kind of the highlight of his year,” Matt said. “It’s a trying period for him right now, because he’s learning with a new ball, but it’s teaching him patience and confidence all at the same time. I like to come out here and watch him and watch the other kids. They all grow up so fast.”