There are plenty of leagues for Hutchinson bowlers to enjoy, but only one takes high school students to bowling centers around the state.
Members of the Hutchinson High School traveling bowling team have rolled rocks in bowling alleys from New Ulm and Gibbon to Austin and Springfield, but this weekend they’re heading to Alexandria as one of 24 teams competing in the state tournament. It’s the team’s first state appearance since 2016.
Gail Plaisance, owner of Hutch Bowl, says he has being sponsoring a high school traveling team since 2003.
“We’ve been to state before,” he said. “It was almost every year there for awhile. We’ve always had a … good representation.”
The team usually has between five and nine players, and five play per match, the others rotating in as they go. This year’s squad has six players: senior Kimmy Klima, junior Brady Miller, and sophomores Bryce Maki, Nolan Hoff, Mason Getz and Josh Quaas. While most play in leagues in Hutchinson, the traveling team, they say, offers something in-house leagues doesn’t.
“You get to travel a lot and go to different small towns and meet small town people, and small town people are really nice,” Getz said.
“You get to see a lot of cool places,” Hoff said, “and how other people bowl and where they bowl, and different types of lanes and stuff.”
It’s that experience that coach Michelle Maki feels is one of the most valuable parts of the traveling bowling league.
“You need to get out of your home bowling center and experience new things, because every bowling center is different,” she said. “It makes them grow as a bowler, too.”
The Hutch team bowls in the South West Conference against teams from New Ulm, Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop, Sibley East and Springfield. After finishing third in the conference with a 13-8 record this fall, the team went on to a second-place finish at the district tournament.
That led to the Class A South Super Regional in Austin. Twenty teams entered, but only the top 12 qualified for state.
Hutchinson finished the first round of games in fifth place to advance to the second round, which is a four-team pool play. Hutch took first place in its pool to guarantee a top-eight finish, and therefore a spot in the state meet.
“(Coach Maki) wouldn’t let us see the (scores) until the end of a certain round,” Klima said, “so it was kind of exciting to see (we qualified for state) after the fact, instead of while we were bowling.”
“It was pretty cool,” Quaas said about qualifying for state. “I was thinking we were like eighth or ninth, because we were doing pretty good. But when I saw we were in fourth place going into that last match, I was like, ‘Wow.’”
Looking ahead to state this weekend, the team knows it will be up against the best competition it’s faced all year. But that doesn’t intimidate them. In fact, Miller is looking forward to seeing the tougher competition.
“It will be fun,” he said.
While this will be the first trip to state for most of the bowlers, Bryce Maki competed three years ago and has an idea of what to expect.
“It’s all in your mind,” he said. “You have to figure out what ball to use, but it’s more of a mind game than a physical game.”
Of course the team would love to win the whole tournament, but they are also setting smaller goals for their trip this Sunday. Only 16 teams make it out of the first round and into the second, and Hutchinson would like to be one of them.
“My goal is for sure to make it past the first cutoff round,” Getz said.
“Don’t leave any open frames,” Hoff said, “do the best we can and hopefully get in the top 16.”