Fort Leonard Wood units had spent the last 10 weeks on the lanes at Daugherty Bowling Center, but on April 15 it all came down to nine teams, each with four players bowling three games for one final cumulative score.
And as they had all season, the 554th Engineer Battalion led the competition, knocking down 2,357 pins to take first place in the 2019 Commander’s Cup Bowling Tournament.
“It was some awesome competition,” said Danny Velez, who led the 554th Engr. Bn. and all bowlers, averaging nearly 227 points per game for a total of 668 points.
Velez’ 554th teammates weren’t far behind, with Kristopher Smith scoring an even 600 points, Anthony Townsie scoring 567 and Robert Riojas adding 522 points.
“I’m grateful for these guys on the team letting me play with them,” Riojas said. “I’ve been in 554 for three years now, and to leave a mark is amazing. These guys carried me all the way.”
Cheering them on was teammate Waddell Tollison, who didn’t bowl April 15 but competed for 554th Engr. Bn. during much of the regular season and in previous tournaments.
“It took us three years to get this win,” Tollison said. “We played better as a team this year than we did last year.”
Taking second place was the 14th Military Police Battalion, led by Curt Schroeder with 644 points. Amanda Hurley scored 574, while Chet Weichelt added 483 and Greg Kleinholz scored 479 for a total of 2,180 points.
“We came out and we tried to put our best scores up. It seemed like we just had an off game every game,” Kleinholz said. “I think everyone gave their best effort tonight; we came out and had fun.”
Third place went to the 31st Engineer Battalion with 2,092 points, followed by the 58th Transportation Battalion in fourth place with 2,083 points, the 43rd Adjutant General in fifth place (1,988), the 3rd Chemical Brigade in sixth (1,978), the 2nd Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment in seventh place (1,687), the Medical Department Activity in eighth place (1,620) and the 252nd Military Police Detachment in ninth with 1,531 points.
The tournament win was icing on the cake for the 554th Engr. Bn., which had led the total point count since the beginning of the season in January.
While confident in their abilities heading into the tournament, Velez said he and other players were concerned as they played on Lanes 3 and 4 at DBC — historically, the lanes of their lowest-scoring games during the season.
“There’s something about those lanes — we don’t do great on them,” Velez said.
Velez added the 14th MP Bde. proved to be worthy competitors during the tournament.
“They gave us a run for the trophy,” Velez said. “I wasn’t worried until the second game. (Our) team, as a whole, wasn’t feeling it.”
When asked what he felt was the 554th’s key to victory, Velez said he and his players encouraged each other during the third and final game.
“Just talking amongst the team, cheering each other on and telling each other to finish strong,” he said.
While they finished in second place, Klineholz said his team’s performance met a long-term goal — earning points toward the overall Commander’s Cup trophy.
“I think it’s about the long race to the (overall) Commander’s Cup, and not necessarily (win) each event,” Kleinholz said. “Our goal is to finish in the top three in each event, and hopefully position ourselves to win the Commander’s Cup at the end of the year. We had a great time. It’s a good time to come out and enjoy the camaraderie, not only amongst our unit but across the entire installation.”
In total pin count, with regular-season and tournament scores combined, the 554th Engr. Bn. ended up in first place with 25,081 points. They were followed by the 43rd AG Bn. (22,461), the 58th Trans. Bn. (22,151), the 3rd Chem. Bde. (21,902), the 14th MP Bde. (21,490), the 31st Engr. Bn. (21,115), MEDDAC (17,621), the 252nd MP Det. (15,914), the 2-48th Inf. Bn. (15,251), the Military Police Basic Officer Leader Course (9,064) and Combat Training Company (6,951).
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