Since the beginning of the season, several of Fort Leonard Wood’s intramural bowling teams have improved; some have consistently performed well, and a few have truly excelled — but none so far have matched the success of the 554th Engineer Battalion.
Leading the standings since the first night of competition Jan. 28, the 554th Engr. Bn. team has built on its lead every Monday night for seven consecutive weeks.
“Most of us bowl on leagues, and most of us who do try to come in and inspire the other guys on our team to do a little better,” said Daniel Velez, who, as of the start of Week Eight on Monday, led all bowlers with an average of 228 points per game.
“We do that by coming in a little extra early; we practice, and then we get on with bowling,” Velez said.
After games bowled March 18, the 554th Engr. Bn. remained solidly in first place in the standings with a total season pin count of 16,206. They were followed by the 14th Military Police Battalion (15,030) in second place, the 43rd Adjutant General Battalion (14,229) in third place, the 58th Transportation Battalion (14,135) in fourth place and the 3rd Chemical Brigade (13,601) in fifth place. Rounding out the standings were the 31st Engineer Battalion (12,764), the Medical Department Activity (10,994); the 2nd Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, (10,679); the 252nd Military Police Detachment (9,960), the Military Police Basic Officer Leader Course (9,064) and Combat training Company (5,491).
Bowling with Velez on March 18 were his 554th teammates Kristopher Smith, who is third overall with a 217 average, Robert Riojas and Walter Phillips. The team also includes Corey Robinson, Anthony Townsie and Waddell Tollison.
Smith said a strength of the team has been “interchanging everyone out.”
“We make sure the whole team gets a chance to play and practice,” Smith said. “We’ve had fun every single week. It’s always fun to have some competition.”
The secret to becoming a top bowler, according to Velez, is simple and time tested: practice. When asked if he had any advice for new bowlers, he suggested, “just to take it one step at a time.”
“You’re not going to become a great bowler overnight. It takes practice, constantly going to the bowling alley and playing a few games,” he said. “Over the years, you’ll get better. You just have to put the time in.”
The format for the intramural season and the annual Commander’s Cup Bowling Tournament has been inverted from previous years, when teams competed head-to-head during the regular season and determined the tournament winner by pin count.
This year, teams are trying to amass the highest pin count during the regular season for the best positions on the Commander’s Cup tournament bracket, which will then involve teams competing against each other in multiple rounds, culminating in a championship game.
“We switched it up a little bit this year, since we’re doing pin counts instead of the normal wins,” explained Bryan Kaolowi, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Sports assistant. “So, we’re trying something a little bit different this year heading into the Commander’s Cup, bracket-wise, and we’ll see how it rolls. So far, it looks like (teams) are enjoying the format.”