May 24, 2022 at 3:19 p.m.
Albany Area High School is no stranger to sendoffs for state-bound teams.
On May 12, it ushered off its latest string of athletes off, as the school’s adapted bowling team competed at the Minnesota State High School League Adapted Bowling Tournament May 13 at Bowlero in Brooklyn Park.
“The school rallies behind them,” said Becky Bartz, Albany adapted bowling co-head coach. “I think that’s the coolest thing ever. They’re treated like anyone else, and they love it. The school did a sendoff for them, and they absolutely loved that.”
The state tournament was broken down into three categories: physically impaired, cognitively impaired and autism spectrum disorder. The Huskies had five student-athletes competing, with four in the PI state tournament: senior Owen Weiss, junior Haley Kerfeld, freshman Allison Wielenberg and eighth grader Carson Traut. Junior Tristyn Gienger participated in the CI singles competition. Also bowling for the team this year was senior Amidy Berckes.
Albany’s PI team took third, much to the pride of its coaches, who marveled at how the group responded to the state stage.
“I think it was being back in person, down at the state, you see a dramatic change in their scores, and I think it’s because of all of the other athletes and the competition factor,” Bartz said. “When they’re just at the Albany Bowling Center, they just don’t have that competition piece.”
The Huskies had been waiting a long time for this chance to shine. Each athlete needed to bowl eight games to register an average, followed by six competitions that comprise the spring season. Then came a make-or-break moment for Albany’s adapted bowlers: the 2022 Adapted Bowling State Qualifying Tournament May 5 in Alexandria. There, the five aforementioned Huskies placed in the top 32 in their division to clinch a spot at state.
“The state qualifying tournament was the biggest moment,” said Rebecca Ellering, Albany adapted bowling co-head coach. “Just to see those scores come through and know their hard work paid off was a big deal.”
Wielenberg logged 420 total pins, while Weiss, Kerfeld and Traut followed with 418, 377 and 368 pins, respectively, good for a team total of 1,583. Weiss’ and Traut’s stellar days came alongside each other, as the duo both bowl off a ramp, leading to the forging of an important bond.
“Owen and Carson really formed a connection, and it was really cool to see,” Bartz said. “Carson would ask Owen questions, so he knew how to do different things coming off the ramp. I think he looked up to him, in a sense.”
Each Huskie was also buoyed by the parents and community in attendance at Bowlero. While it can be nerve-wracking bowling in a different environment than usual, the youth knew they were not alone.
“I think that support is everything,” Bartz said. “That kept them going. That motivation, their enthusiasm, they had a drive to be able to get those strikes.”
Being able to experience the state tournament in person for the first time in two years was a blessing for Albany’s treasure trove of talented adapted bowlers, but it is more than glory at a statewide level that brings them back to the lanes. As the Huskies close the book on another season, the team says farewell to distinguished performers in Weiss and Berckes and set their sights to the memories they hope to make together.
“I think the connection that’s made between the athletes, the bonds they build, it gives them something to look forward to in the spring,” Ellering said.