Urbana University takes its men’s and women’s club bowling teams very seriously, which is one reason former Eastwood standout Mallory Fritz picked the Blue Knights’ program to compete in during her collegiate career.
“The majority of teams are club teams in collegiate bowling,” Urbana women’s bowling coach Phil Baker said. “The division we play in, there are 130-some ladies’ teams. We bowl against Wichita State (18 national titles), Webber International in Florida (one national title), Pikeville, Ky., (two national titles) - basically against the top teams in the nation.
“We have the chance to pick the teams and compete against the best. To be the best, we need to compete against the best in the country.”
Fritz, 22, would have been the lone senior on this year’s Blue Knights squad, but she has picked up and literally moved out of the lower 48 states.
Fritz, who as a junior helped Eastwood’s girls win a state bowling title in 2009, will live in Alaska through next spring as a student intern. Fritz, a student athletic trainer, applied for and accepted the internship as part of Urbana University’s partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“You have to go through an application process and interview process, and they choose one senior to come up here,” Fritz said via telephone Wednesday from Denali National Park. “You take online classes through Urbana, but you’re interning in Alaska for seven months and then you go back to Urbana and graduate.
“I’m working with the athletic trainers at Alaska Fairbanks, which is funding this. They don’t send anyone to Urbana or anything like that. I’m the second person from Urbana to come up here and do this.”
Fritz was a three-year starter and an academic All-American at Urbana and said she will miss her teammates this season. She said bowling in college was “a great experience.”
“It was definitely a level up from high school,” she said. “You get to meet so many new people and make so many new friends. It’s a great feeling to go out and compete in so many tournaments with your team. I do miss bowling and I’m going to miss bowling with the girls, but I had to do what’s best for myself for the future, which is athletic training. Collegiate bowling is competitive, but it’s also fun at the same time.”
Baker said the Blue Knights’ first tournament is scheduled for Sept. 21-22. Urbana’s season ends next spring at the national tournament in Reno, Nev.
“We bowl one to two tournaments a month through the whole season,” Baker said. “We just completed our fourth year of competition. Our men’s team has been a little more successful. We all practice together and coach together.”
Baker said Fritz was putting her college major to good use by learning on the job with some of Urbana University’s sports programs and other area high school teams.
“We hated to lose her, but that’s an opportunity she couldn’t pass up,” Baker said. “I know she hated to have to miss her senior year, but things happen. She has an advanced game. She probably didn’t have as much experience as some of the top girls in the country prior to coming to college. Beyond that, her parents (Beth and Mike) were always fully behind her. She is a very good student and a very good learner of the game as well.”
Fritz and her father recently spent a couple weeks touring the 49th state, including a trip to Denali National Park, a six-million acre park located in Alaska’s interior.
“We got in (to Alaska) last Tuesday (Aug. 6) and went to Chena hot hprings, which is like a resort with natural hot springs,” Fritz said. “We spent two days fishing. We saw salmon, but we were fishing for grayling. We caught quite a few on the Chena River. Denali National Park is just one of those must-see places. We saw a moose and hiked a two-mile trail.”
Fritz and her dad also got a good look at Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America.
“It was a clear day and we were able to see it,” she said. “It was so cool to see it in the distance and say, ‘hey, I’ve seen Mount McKinley.’ That’s not something everybody can say. Alaska is so cool, but you don’t fully appreciate it until you get to see it. Now that I’m up here, I absolutely love it. This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Fritz said it will be hard to give up her bowling career, but she will always find time to bowl in her spare time.
“Leaving my friends was hard,” she said, “but I’ll see them in March when I go back.”
Her goal is to graduate in May, find an internship next summer and then go to graduate school for two years.
“I want to be an athletic trainer for a baseball team,” said Fritz, whose favorite teams are the Mud Hens and Detroit Tigers. “That’s one of those (jobs) where you have to start low and work your way up.”