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The world of college bowling can be tough--just ask Kalyn Washburn

We've recently been hearing about the accomplishments of different college athletes in the area. University of Arizona softball pitcher Taryne Mowatt used a gritty 10-day stretch of nail-biting pitching in the College World Series to chisel into stone her position as perhaps the baddest (non-gender-specific) mutha of all time.

Then there's Marcus Williams, who somehow managed to parlay a decent performance in a couple of games of the 2006 NCAA Tournament into being drafted in the second round by the world-champion San Antonio Spurs. The really odd thing is that, despite my being a huge Wildcats basketball fan, I had to double-check his name, because it didn't leap to mind immediately. He was here for two years; he didn't get arrested; he played OK, but I don't think one Cat fan is going to miss him. He was just a little bit too cool.

Personally, I wouldn't mind attending the Spurs' training camp and watching Manu Ginobili kick his ass on a daily basis--you know, make Williams a little less cool and perhaps a whole lot better.

Mustafa Shakur, the can't-miss prospect who did miss, went undrafted by the NBA. If ever there were a poster child for too much hype and overly high personal expectations, it was Shakur. Again, he wasn't a jerk like Hassan Adams, but he was sullen and private. His biggest "sin," however, was not leading the Cats into the Final Four, as legends Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby and Jason Gardner had done before him. And Shakur would have matched that feat had not the Cats blown that 15-point lead against Illinois in 2005, the biggest choke in NCAA history. Allow me to introduce another college athlete with local ties: Kalyn (Kay'-lynn) Washburn. The 2005 Marana Mountain View High School product was in town for a few weeks this summer, but had to return to college early to work on her game. After having been a scholarship athlete on a squad that finished third in the country last season, her spot is now in jeopardy after the coach brought in a slew of freshmen to help the team move up those final two spots to a national title.

Such is the cutthroat world of college bowling.

Yes, Kalyn, who otherwise seems perfectly normal, is a member of the University of Nebraska women's bowling team. She has a 226 average and once bowled a 274, just missing a perfect game. (Some people think that Fermat's last theorem involved numbers raised to certain powers, but it actually explains how one can fall 26 points short of 300 and still have it qualify as "just missed.")

She has her own bowling ball (several, actually), and it comes in the odd weight of 15 pounds. This is different from the 8-, 10-, 12- and 16-pounders you'll find at the local bowling alley. Also different is the fact that her bowling ball doesn't have nicks and bruises in it from being tossed like a slow-pitch softball by knuckleheads with too much adrenaline, too little coordination and/or a fat thumb. She explains that years of testing and mathematical calculations have shown that 15 pounds is the optimum weight for a bowling ball to do what it's designed for.

Kalyn began bowling as a kid, and when she got to high school, was surprised to learn that Mountain View had a bowling team. They'd compete against other northside schools, including Ironwood Ridge and Canyon del Oro, as well as teams from Phoenix. It was in Phoenix where Kalyn was spotted by a college recruiter. (There's a job for you: college-bowling recruiter. Can you imagine the qualifications for that job? Yellow/gray skin, nicotine-stained fingers, must be willing to state publicly that he/she didn't like the movie Kingpin.)

Anyway, it was off to the land of the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. The University of Nebraska used to be well-known for football, but these days, it's more of a women's volleyball school. The women's bowling team, while also a national power, is somewhere down the list.

Kalyn redshirted her first year (I didn't ask; hangnail, maybe?), but then competed on the team last year in tournaments in such exotic places as Whitewater, Wis., Greenwood, Miss., and Jonesboro, Ark. Actually, I've been to the last place, which is home to Arkansas State University. One of my old coaching buddies from Amphi High, Rebecca Chilton Peoples, is now the assistant women's coach at A-State, which is one of the last colleges in America to have as its mascot the Indians.

I did ask Kalyn the important questions. Does she train for the upcoming season by eating lots of shoestring french fries with ketchup? (No.) Does the bowling team have really cool jackets, like the Mathletes in Mean Girls? (Sort of.) Does the bowling team have an on-campus practice site, or do they have to go downtown? (Actually, the on-campus lanes are for the team, and the regular scrub students are allowed to use them only around the team's schedule.)

She's going back to school a month early to work on her game and try to win her spot back from one of the hotshot freshmen. I'll try to keep you updated, because, for some reason, the Star and Citizen just don't cover this stuff.

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