Bowling might not be the highest profile of high school sports, but there is no question that Greenwood Christian Academy’s Alexandra Ross has a big-time game.
Ross won the Indiana High School Bowling state championship on Feb. 15 at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis, defeating Lake Central’s Kelly Belzeski with a final game score of 269.
Only a freshman, Ross was the top seed in the knockout ladder after bowling a 702 series in the qualifying. She rolled a total of 10 strikes in that match.
While not sanctioned by the IHSAA, high school bowling is a club sport with heavy participation in the state, including 3,500 student-athletes competing in the various rounds of the state tournament.
The final was televised statewide, and Ross impressed professional bowler Mike Aulby, who was doing commentary, with her form and the short amount of time she took to roll once she had picked up her ball.
As to that quick tempo, Ross said she was just “in a zone.”
“When you get into a rhythm you just need to keep going,” she said. “There’s a zone, definitely, because I was in the zone. I think throwing a lot of strikes (puts you there). Usually I go faster because I get set up better.
“You’re so in focus that you just keep going. You don’t think about ‘What I should do’. I wasn’t thinking, really.”
The performance is more remarkable considering that Ross has only been bowling for six years.
Her father, Ryan Ross, who coaches the GCA team, said he began staying home in 2008 and was looking for something he and Alexandra could do together. They settled on bowling and she participated in Kids Bowl Free, a national program sponsored by bowling centers around the country to promote interest in the game.
“She enjoyed it, but when she said she wanted to bowl in a league, we thought she would get tired of it after a while,” the elder Ross said. “But it just took off from there.”
The younger Ross started to excel at the game and said there were multiple reasons for it.
“The first year I started I had the highest average in the league I bowled in, so I thought if I keep working at this I have a shot at being pretty good,” she said. “I just liked having fun. It’s a different kind of sport than basketball or soccer. It’s a sport you can compete individually in and not have to worry about how good your team is.
“You can meet some pretty cool people in it, too.”
One of those people for Ross has been Diandra Asbaty, one of the top female bowlers in the nation. Asbaty is based out of Chicago and has been coaching Alexandra.
“I go to Chicago on a Saturday or a Friday if we’re off school,” Ross said. “She gives me three or four things to work on in the lesson, and the lesson lasts an hour and a half to two hours. She films me and watches me and sends me the stuff I need to work on in an email.”
Ross is active in the extensive junior bowling tournament network operated by the U.S. Bowling Congress. USBC sponsors a national championship event called the U.S. Junior Gold, and Alexandra will compete at this year’s event in July in Buffalo. Winning is one of her goals.
“I’d like to make the Indiana All-Star team. I’d like to win Junior Gold for my (age) division. I’d like to bowl in college, and I want to throw a 300,” she said.
Like its basketball counterpart, the Indiana All-Star team in bowling plays a match against a team from Kentucky. Unlike basketball, however, the team consists of top female bowlers from around the state, not just students. The top 16 bowlers from qualifying tournaments in Terre Haute this spring will make the team.
Ross is already beginning to attract some attention from college programs. More than 100 schools have interscholastic teams, with many more teams and scholarships available on the women’s side due to Title IX. Nebraska is the defending NCAA women’s team champion.
Of course, being able to pursue all of these goals involves a lot of practice. Ross usually works on her game at Southern Bowl in Greenwood.
“I work on spares a lot. I work on release, just throwing the ball and not worrying about what I get score-wise,” she said. “I bowl three times a week, sometimes four like I did last week. I might bowl three of four games (per visit).”
While she has other interests, Ross has no qualms about spending so much time in pursuit of her dreams.
“I like bowling,” she said. “That’s what I do a lot of.”