By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School boys bowling team has two huge things going for it this year. Namely, Scott Bridger and Nick Blythe.
The former, a junior, holds a national title in the sports from a blistering performance at the State Games of America in August 2013. The latter, a freshman, has two perfect games and an 800 series to his name. The duo is a formidable presence on any lane, but the team has so much more going for it this year.
Once you add lead-off man Garon Stanley, stalwart Jonathan Hill, and two promising newcomers, Dishon Miranda and Tyler Smith, into the mix, what you’ve got is all the makings of a potential state championship.
“They are starting at a high level. We’re able to focus on those things that we wouldn’t be able to if they were still learning how to bowl. Each of them also has confidence in each other,” said Dan Kaplan, team head coach in his 19th year.
If it’s all starting to sound like puffery, consider this: in December, the team marched into battle at a pre-tournament in Molalla with a number of powerhouse teams in the mix. They walked out with the tournament title. It was the first time McNary won a pre-tournament in as long as Kaplan has coached the program.
“We mesh well,” said Stanley. “To the point where we can get into another team’s heads like we did with the Molalla team. Half the time we aren’t even talking about bowling.”
The Celts followed up that performance with a fourth place finish in a Milwaukee tournament Sunday, Jan. 5.
“It’s just a great group. I love bowling and being able to come out and play with guys who love it as much as I do is amazing,” Hill said.
Miranda and Smith, the newcomers, appear to fit seamlessly within the more experienced ranks of the team. Miranda was roped into it after his girlfriend tried out for the girls’ team. Smith heard about it through the grapevine at South Salem High School, and decided he had to be part once he turned out for a practice.
“When we are competing together, we just rock it,” Smith said.
One of the many traits that’s helped the team success has been a cool demeanor even when things aren’t going the Celtic way.
“Whenever something is going wrong, we do our best to stay positive and the friendship we have helps,” Miranda said.
The McNary teams competition format is baker style, which means team members roll one ball and, if any pins are left standing, it’s up to a teammate to clean up the lane. Teams can play to their strengths as individual bowlers because they can rely on each other when they’re not rolling strikes on every ball.
The bonds of friendship an be critical anytime someone else is struggling.
“But we find a way to start positive and stay positive. That’s what set us apart in Molalla,” Bridger said.
Kaplan said the team has the most promise it’s had in more than a decade because of they way they’ve bonded, a sentiment seconded by assistant coach Scott Miller.
“The more experienced ones take the less experienced kids under their wing, and they’re paying attention to how each other is bowling every frame so they can make their own adjustments,” Miller said. “They’re like sponges.”