File photo Kansas City Star
File photo Kansas City Star

State Colleges

Newman bowler Alex George works through mourning

By Jeffrey Lutz

The Wichita Eagle

April 16, 2017 05:27 PM

Alex George had his best bowling season without his biggest fan.

George’s father, Steven, died in August, two months before Alex’s senior season with Newman University’s bowling team began. The first part of George’s season was a struggle, mostly emotionally as he tried to cope.

“He was always the life of the party and that light in our family that always fun to be around, and an inspiration,” George said. “His passing really hit me and the rest of my family pretty hard.

“He was my big motivation.”

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George and his father shared a love for the sport, a memory George held tightly in his final collegiate season. George improved his scoring average by 15 points from his junior season and has helped Newman into this week’s intercollegiate bowling championships in Baton Rouge, La.

Newman’s women also made the 16-team tournament, which begins on Wednesday, as did Wichita State’s men and women.

George had a 206 average this season, besting last year’s 191 as he remembered the goals he set for his final year and the person who most wanted to see him reach them.

“It was a decision on my part to try to get as close as I could to being an All-American and helping the team as much as I could,” George said. “Part of it was I just didn’t bowl very well the first part of the season, then there was a five-tournament stretch where I made the top 25 every tournament.

“It was more a mental mindset of getting myself to refocus on every shot than it was (being worried about) the outcome of the entire tournament.”

After failing to crack the top 50 in Newman’s first two tournaments, George finished 21st or better in each of the next five. That included two third-place finishes, including the Southern Collegiate Classic, where George had a 220 average and a high game of 268.

George’s averages for his first two seasons were below 200 and his 191 as a junior was in the middle of his previous two years. He hadn’t been better than Newman’s fourth-best scorer, so it wasn’t necessarily expected that he would become its best.

“It really is rare,” Newman coach Billy Murphy said of George’s 15-point surge. “But we’re talking about a kid who has a tremendous work ethic. There probably isn’t anybody who works harder than that kid, and he knew that he kind of underachieved last year.

“He put in the time in the summer and all through this season, and he just got better. He wanted to be better. He wants to be great at this, and he just went and did it.”

George narrowly missed All-American status and came just as close to qualifying for the individual championships this week. He learned to be OK with that in the name of enjoying the team’s success, too.

“Getting close was what mattered, and I succeeded in doing that,” George said. “It happens.”

Intercollegiate Championships

  • When: Tuesday through Saturday
  • Where: Baton Rouge, La.